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'^ I' 


Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2010 

The Quest for 
MicrowavaUe Pasta 'IS 

biotech tale oftoti by 
Robin Wheatworth 



Biotechnology • 16 

analy,is by Tom Mhananou 

Future • 51 

and/ysis by Sdm Butova 

We Don't Gotta Show 

You No Stinkin' 

Gene Screens! • 46 

inlerneiv with Dr Paul Billmgs 

My Best Job* 10 

biotech tale of tod 
by Kwazee Wabbit 

T / 

Reproductive Rights^ 
Rant • 57 

by Angela Socage 

People's Ambulance 
Chaser • 29 

tale ol toil by R L Tripp 

Biohell • 18 ^ 

' biotech tale of toil \J 
















Pissing in the 
Gene Pool • 34 

' ana/y Sis by Ptimitiyo Mora/es 

Castro's Genes • 41 

bio/ech trayi^ toil by Michael Dunn 

Genetic Engineering 
Pioneer • 24 

((^fvfev\ yvitb Marco Schwarzstein 

Temporary Coding • 61 

tale ol toil by Mickey D 

Generation X • 22 

tiction excerpt by Douglas Coup/and 

Splicing Heads • 2 

introductory editorial 





. Lazzara, Morales 

Bar Raps • 26 

prose poem by Marina Lazzara 





uom our re-^decN 



meltDOWNTIME • 43 

nuke dump, deep dish fv 
amazonian ecogroup 

Front Cover: Bill Koeb 
Back Cover: Arch D. Bunker 


-jBean, Kwazee Wabbitt, Mickey D, 
7 D.S, Black, Frog, Pnmitivo Morales, 
~ Chris Carlsson, Zoe Noe, Ellen K., Denim . 
- Daddy, Paula Orlando, IRS, Trixie T- 
-Square, Neil M., Mark B., Louis' 
"Michaelson, Curlis inlerruptus Shelley 
~ Fern Diamond 



Claude Ewell, Tom Tomorrow, Ate 
Backwords, Man Bianca, Doug Minkler 
IB Nelson, Arch D Bunker, The ; 
^ Stranger, Max FHardley and Tony Allen, 
Lili Ledbetler, Todd LeFurge, jovan 
Severin Head, Chaz Bufe, and others, 
readers and workers alike 



Winter 1991-92 
ISSN 0735-9381 i 

The material in Pfoccssed IVor/ci reflects 
the ideas and fantasies of the specific 
r authors and artists, and not necessarily- 
^those of other contributors, editors or; 

POEMS • 32 

Nathan Whiting, Marc Olmned, 
Alan Mendoza. DS Black, 
Blair Ewing, Art Tishman. 

Pro-Choice Poem • 59 

by fauid (_)r/ando 



secondary primary college ' \ 
students teachers research _ V 



Processed World is a project of the Bay ~ 
\rea Center for Art & Technology, a ' 
nonprofit, tax exempt corporation. 
BACAT can be contacted at 1095 ^ 
Market Street, #209, San Francisco, CA N 
44 10^; PW or BACAT may be phoned — 
at (4151 626-2979 or faxed at (415) 626- 

Processed World is collectively edited 
and produced. Nobody gets paid (ex- 

I cept the printer and the Post Office). IT 
^ We welcome comments, letters, and 

I submissions (no originals!). Write us at 
41 Sutler Street, #1829. San, Francisco. ~ 
(A 94104. ^ , 1^ \ ^ ■ s - 


"New Technology^' Again 


elcome to PROCESSED WORLD 28, whose theme is 
biotechnology, a very broad category that includes mak- 
ing both beer and transgenic species. The present direction of bio- 
technology's development is another bracing slap in the face for 
all of us who demand popular control over technology, science, 
and work itself. Those of us working on the magazine are not bio- 
logists. Our attempt to analyze biotech, then, represents something 
of the social process we think the majority of the population needs 
to engage in. 

As we grope for ways to understand 
what is happening in this new realm, we 
face the disadvantage of being non-experts 
challenging experts, posing problems for 
our credibility right from the start. Teach- 
ing ourselves about arcane technological 
developments challenges the authority 
vested in scientific expertise. This chal- 
lenge intensifies when we reject attempts 
by scientists and their boosters to force 
the arguments onto technical grounds. 

A case in point— from an editorial in 
the May 1991 issue of Biotechnology 

"If I were opposed in principle to the 
deliberate release of genetically modified 
organisms (GMOs) into the environment 
(which I am not), I would build my case not 
on hazards supposedly inherent in the 
recombination of diverse fragments of 
DNA, nor on the artificiality of gene 
splicing, nor on the presumptuousness of 
hurrxans "playing God," nor on the added 
impetus biotechnology allegedly gives to the 
growing polarization of the planet into the 
rich North and the impoverished South, nor 
even on the question of whether we really 
need better bio-control agents or novel plants 
with built-in herbicide resistance. I would 
focus instead on one simple question: is our 
knowledge of natural gene transmission 
sufficiently comprehensive to adopt as the 
baseline against which to assess the conse- 
quences, perhaps distant in space and time, 
of today's release of GMOs?. . . In less than 
two years we have learned that bacterial 
viruses are vastly commoner in water than 
was previously imagined, and that they 
probably have extensive interactions with 

aquatic bacteria. Clearly, this new know- 
ledge extends our vision of the machinery 
available for the horizontal movement of 
genes in nature. And that, in turn, alters our 
perspective on the possible onward journeys 
of stretches of D'NA ferried into GMOs and 
then disseminated into the environment." 
"Commentary: Revelations Recur' 
ring" by Bernard Dixon 

Dixon, an unabashed cheerleader for 
biotech, admits our knowledge of the 
consequences of releasing genetically 
modified organisms into the environ- 
ment is woefully inadequate. His glib 
dismissal of an impressive list of social 
criticisms is typical. By rejecting social or 
ethical or economic considerations, by 
willfully ignoring the social conse- 
quences of their endeavors, the "experts" 
compel us to rise to the occasion with 
affirmations of our right to subject 
science and technology to more serious 
social criticism. 

Biotechnology encompasses two pow- 
erful efforts to develop vastly profitable, 
marketable commodities. The first, engi- 
neering the human body, comprises 
everything from genetic screening/ther- 
apy and the Human Genome Project 
(HGP) to the insatiable and probably 
infinite market for new ways to "im- 
prove" human bodies/longevity/pleas- 
ures/health. This market will likely bal- 
loon as the HGP generates the raw data 
needed for new "breakthroughs." Ap- 
proaching rapidly are new pharmaceuti- 
cal products, new ways of "enhancing" 
the human condition, new definitions of 
disease and "disorder," and a worldwide 

industry mobilized to create and fill new 
needs through biological manipulation. 
Covering this front is "We Don't Gotta 
Show You No Stinkin' Gene Screens," 
an interview with Dr. Paul Billings, a 
genetic discrimination specialist (page 
46), and Primitive Morales' look at the 
history of eugenics and the state of the 
art in genetic screening, "Pissing In The 
Gene Pool" (page 34). 

Curiously, we already know an awful 
lot about improving human health but 
don't implement it. We could provide 
basic preventive medicine through uni- 
versal, freely available health clinics, 
adequate prenatal care for all pregnant 
women, adequate housing and useful 
participation in society, and decent san- 
itation, sewage treatment, and clean 
water, to name a few. This year, a 
quarter of a million people in South 
America have already contracted chol- 
era, a disease for which the solution has 
been known for over a hundred years: 
clean water and enclosed sewers. Claims 
that biotechnology alone can vastly 
improve human health will divert atten- 
tion and resources away from such 
pressing problems. 

In much the same way, agricultural 
biotechnology diverts resources and re- 
search from such worthwhile goals as 
sustainable agriculture and puts the 
emphasis on new technological fixes. 
Food production is where the debate 
over the releasing oi genetically 
manipulated organisms into the envi- 
ronment is hot and heavy, although it is 
only a more attention-grabbing part of 

f»fft<::>dHsssi> woR.i.i> -^sx 

the field. Biotech companies are devel- 
oping or considering the creation of 
transgenic species of plant and animal; 
cloning and in-vitro propagation of 
animal embryos; harnessing of microbial 
interactions; biotech pest and disease 
control products; and the use of crops as 
feedstock for the chemical industry. See 
Tom Athanasiou's "Greenwashing Ag- 
ricultural Biotechnology" (page 16), 
Robin Wheatworth's "The Quest for 
Microwavable Pasta and Other Vital 
Needs. . ." (page 13), and Sam Bulova's 
"Shadowboxing The Future" (page 51). 
And check out PW 22 for a good look at 
diminishing genetic diversity in Mark 
Leger's "Plants Bursting With Energy." 
Our biotech issue also looks at life on the 
lab bench in Chudaman Royale's "Bio- 
hell," and in "A Genetic Engineering 
Pioneer," an interview with Swiss- 
trained Brazilian geneticist Marco 
Schwarzstein, who has left the field 
because of terminal suspicion towards 
science. This interview, along with a 
brief report on Cuban biotechnology 
("Castro's Genes" on page 41), hint at some 
of the promise/hype and problems of this 
new technology in the Third World. 

As multinationals develop bioengin- 
eered substitutes for a wide range of vital 
export crops like sugar, cacao, and 
vanilla, the suffering of millions of 
already poor farmers and peasants in- 
tensifies. A new biotech peasantry is 
being "engineered" in tropical forests 
and other genetically rich hotspots as 
the new raw material producers suffer 
the same old fate: low prices, expensive 
imports, and ever-increasing debt. 
Crushing poverty in places like the 
Amazon, with its unplanned, chaotic 
urban sprawls, usually without basic 
running water and sewerage, ensures the 
availability of "human resources" for a 
nightmarish biotech future. 

The absurd claim that "transgenic" 
creations, like the more mundane her- 
bicide-resistant crops and bovine growth 
hormone (BGH), will somehow end 
world hunger clearly shows how some 
scientists can so lose themselves in 
arcane technical detail that they com- 
pletely fail to understand what is going 
on around them. 

Increases in agricultural productivity 
might be of interest to people who 
simply need food that they're not get- 
ting. But increased production is a big 
problem — because it bears no relation 
to specific need and is not coordinated 
with distribution. Instead of simply de- 
livering the surplus to the needy, the 

government buys it and holds it back 
from the market to maintain prices. This 
allows most farmers to pay their debts 
(good for banks, y'know) and keeps the 
"system" going. 

A technological breakthrough in this 
environment does not change its logic, 
unless other forces in society pressure it 
to do so. Predictably, the industry 
leaders will gain greater market shares 
and drive out weaker competitors. So 
while new biotechnologies may help 
increase food yields, unless there is a break 
between having money and being able to 
eat, surpluses will just create problems 
for the "price stabilizers." 


The promise of biotechnology, like 

any promise made by the leaders of 
this society, should be put to popular 
scrutiny. As with any new technology, 
we should have some way to learn about 
it, evaluate the changes it may bring, 
and decide what needs it should address. 
But we don't make decisions about ANY 
changes that take place in our lives, so 
how can we suddenly assert a public 
right to control our latest whiz-bang 
technofix? As it is, most of us don't 
really care about the "why" oi what we're 
doing at work now. If we can't get worked 
up about how we spend our lives, what 
chance is there that we'll confront the 
ramifications of new technology? This is 
just a glimpse of the enormity of our 


Liar Slaver Murderer Thief 

FUTURE THEMES! Please SUBMIT articles/tales of toil/ 
graphics/fiction/poetry on Immigration^ The "New" 
Patriotism, and Education, for upcoming theme issues. 

f»B<0<:i.ESSEI> W<I>B<t.I> 2tS 

The biotech research scientists them- 
selves are not even involved in deter- 
mining the nature of their work. Our 
various tales of toil from inside the 
corporate biotech world demonstrate 
repeatedly that research and develop- 
ment priorities are set by the market- 
place, not by the pursuit of Truth or the 
satisfaction of human needs. In a sidebar 
to a salary survey in the September 1990 
Biotechnology, scientists complained of a 
lack of support from the company 
hierarchy and "not enough participation 
in decision making." This frustration 
indicates that the front line scientist is 
already at odds with the money boys & 
girls. Can we imagine scientists re- 
directing biotechnology away from mere 
commercial ends? 

To evaluate biotechnology or any 
technology, we have to have values and 
a vision. These are not something we are 
much encouraged to develop. 

Part of Processed World's vision is 
abundance in general, with less work and 
a balanced ecology. This is what bio- 
technology seems to promise (see 
"Greenwashing. . ."). Instead of saying 
STOP, we say "we want the goods, but 
the marketplace can't provide them, and 
will actually obstruct our ability to 
determine our real desires." Our vision 
of a free society is not any more 
"natural" (or unnatural!) than the mess 
we're living in now. A socially and 
spiritually free, ecologically sound, and 
materially abundant life takes democrat- 
ic planning. We know the results we get 
by leaving it up to the same corporate 
and governmental elites that have had 
their way for decades. 

Debating the nuances of technological 
change may seem irrelevant in the 
absence of social control over society's 
resources, including the work it does. 
Nevertheless, we must continue to stim- 
ulate this debate. Since the mid-1970s, 
grassroots movements have challenged 
the experts on nukes and offshore oil 
drilling, as they now do over AIDS 
treatment. In the momentous shift to 
bio-engineered production, we must de- 
termine what we want before we can be 
in a position to influence the outcome of 


Restoring the earth absolutely depends 
on the successful implementation of 
biological knowledge. Advanced biotech 
makes this more possible. The blurry line 
between analysis and intervention has 
been crossed. If we want to understand 

photo: Bean 

what we've done and begin clarifying 
how to make it "right" (a concept which 
is, inevitably, a human construct too), 
we need to understand and analyze life 
and ecosystems at both the cellular and 
the systemic level. That is what basic 
biology allows us to do; how capital 
turns it into products is quite another 
story. Genentech's refusal to develop a 
malaria vaccine, which could quickly 
make a huge difference for tens of 
millions, is a sordidly normal example of 
decisions driven by the profit motive. 

Biotechnology also encompasses re- 
production and contraception, which 
further complicates simple opposition. 
Freedom from procreation requires safe, 
efficient and invisible contraception. But 
like any product, contraceptives come to 
us at the expense of those who produce 
them. The personal sexual freedom pro- 
vided by contraception is contingent on 
others — to say the least! Because we have 
no control over research and develop- 
ment, a disproportionate share of re- 
search goes into female contraception. 
The inadequacy of contraception in 
general leads to the "moral crisis" of 
abortion, an issue Angela Bocage fumes 
about in "Reproductive Rights Rant" 
(page 57). Don't we all wish for a new 
birth control fix— safe, easy, without side 
effects or ecological repercussions? How 
do we develop the social imagination to 
conceive of and fight for the technolo- 
gies we want, in the face of an agenda set 
by capital? 

Of course the U.S. government has 
been actively engineering a good busi- 
ness climate for biotechnology. The 
Supreme Court did its part by ruling in 
favor of the patenting of life forms. 
Without guaranteed property rights, 
investment in new life forms would be 

drastically curtailed. The first imperative 
in the national biotechnology policy 
report of the President's Council on 
Competitiveness (chaired by that famous 
scientist/intellectual, Dan Quayle) is to 
"re-emphasize technology transfer from 
government-supported research institu- 
tions to commercial practice." Plans are 
also underway to remove federal regula- 
tions that apply only to biotechnology 
and abandon public oversight of the 
process in favor of cursory regulation of 
the products. 


Every time we are drawn into an 
argument about the safety or efficacy of a 
particular innovation, we abdicate on 
the larger questions. Why this? Why a 
"product"? Why are we going down this 
road? What kind of life do we want, and 
will this help us achieve it? At what cost? 

We're speeding to Hell, few people 
think life is getting better, and the 
human condition and global ecology are 
worsening at a precipitous rate. A thor- 
oughgoing overhaul is long overdue. We 
work far too hard doing things which are 
destroying us, and have no clear vision 
of how to make life worth living— or the 
means to do so. But we must create 

On Processed World's traditional turf, 
this issue takes a look at the miseries of 
working in law with two tales of toil, 
"People's Ambulance Chaser" and 
"Temporary Coding." We're excerpting 
a chapter from "Generation X," a great 
new book by Douglas Coupland. Just 
published by St. Martin's, it captures the 
Processed World experience to perfection. 
"Bar Raps" is a poetic account of life 
behind the bar. Our DOWNTIME! 
section features a warning about the 
still-not-dead nuclear industry "Mutate 
Now, and Avoid The Rush," along with 
great letters and poetry to round out the 
issue. As always, we crave your response. 
Write to us. What do you think? 
41 Sutter St., No. 1829 
San Francisco, CA 94104. 
Telephone (415) 626-2979 
Fax (415) 626-2685 
We are always seeking new contribu- 
tors of graphic art, cartoons, photo- 
graphs, reports from workplaces, 
stories about daily life, tales of toil, 
poetry and fiction. We pay nothing! 
Getting in print is its own reward, 
(ha ha). 

••fftociESsso vy<:L>5«.i-o ssj 

More On Good Jobs 

Dear PW, 

Thanks for sending issue 26/27, another 
fine issue, though one article ("Ambivalent 
Memories of Virtual Community") managed 
to deflate a dream of mine in one fell swoop. 
It seems that we should be able to apply 
what we have learned about hierarchy and 
make it stick. I feel your contributors for 
26/27 failed to do this. One after another 
enthusiastic egalitarians fell (or were 
pushed) back into the manager/worker/ 
consumer roles. I'd like to see a follow-up 
questionnaire asking: "What happened? 
Were you or your co-workers polarized by 
apathy or responsibility? Was it the outside 
pressure of too many other institutions saying 
'Not you, let me talk to your supervisor!'? Was 
your group structured like the corporate 
world and planning only to listen to each 
other and thinking good thoughts?" 

In my experience, groups work well when 
their members respect each other independ- 
ent of the job or role and share on interest in 
the purpose of the group. This holds true in 
my job, social and political groups and 
probably others. It fits with my anarcho- 
feminist politics; organizational hierarchies 
obscure lines of real respect (do I like her 
because she is concerned and cool or 
because she is in control of my life?) and 
fossilize a particular group's purpose. 

Along with whatever issues of respect, 
fossilizing the purpose of a particular group 
sure sounds like a port of what G.S. William- 
son and S. Colatrella have run up against. 
The groups I've appreciated being involved 
with decided what they would do based on 
what the people within them valued rather 
than on some Grand Scheme. Considering 
the importance of Grand Schemes (fyiake 
Money! Save the Earth! Provide Service X!) to 
how we organize ourselves and our expecta- 
tions, it's not surprising that the sort of groups 
I like are usually either '■social" (i.e. pagan 
groups I've been in) or "subservient" to a 
larger group who impress their Grand 
Scheme upon lower echelon groups (i.e., 
teams I've been on at work). 

Please do more with the idea of Good 
Work. More tales of folks who made it, both 
as stable entities and in organizations worth 
being port of. Kelly Girl ( "Kelly Girl's Good 
Job " PW 26/27) has the right idea. I have 
been working as an independent contractor 
and the control over one's work life is great. 
The only downfall I see in this realm of work 
is that it doesn't hove much camaraderie 
and can be somewhat meaningless. Lets 
hear more! 


Petulant Ravings?!! 

Dear PW, 

Let it be known that the petulant ravings of 
the disgruntled former Wheatsville employee 
have their groundings in the frustrations of a 
rebel without a cause. Certainly Wheatsville 
is not perfect, but having worked there 
myself for over four years after experiencing 
many other types of counter-cultural jobs, the 
place definitely shines forth. Since one 
usually comes to the decision to work, the 
beauty of working at Wheatsville is in its 
tolerance for most everyone and its atmo- 
sphere of free thinking. Many of the co-op 

employees at Wheatsville were able to come 
to terms with certain personal issues and 
establish a few ideals in the safety of that 
environment. I suppose the opinions ex- 
pressed in "Beatnik Managers and Tye-Dye 
Bureaucrats . . "(PW 26/27] were the au- 
thor's way of working out a few of his own 
issues, however I must soy that working with 
him was a drag. 

As he mentioned, he looked for ways not to 
work; not everybody hod that same attitude. 
And for those interested in sharing the 
responsibilities of co-oping, he was a definite 
thorn in the side. It is true that the pay was 

THIS M«»fclH W*IU» 


THAT To ME gy fiVE? 

SOtU^TfiTMMtMt/rli Stiffs UKt 

Ty^eftri/ o^e hour seet^s like 


ABLE TO Work a si%rUH hou/k 

Mi-- IN 41/ST £IOMrHOUAS: 


■ ° 

SURE, BOiS! NO WOftLf M.' ^'f:: 

80V.' it 30UN0S LIKE I'D 

AceeLEMTo FluS^'^! 



•»fft<i><:i.ESSEo wcL»R.t>i> sa 

low and the usual benefits were ttiin, but in 
defense of ttie management at Wheatsville, 
the true benefits of working there were not 
monetary, something all who worked there 
knew. What Wheatsville does offer is a 
fantastic social connection to many people 
of the community involved in social alterna- 
tives and counter-culture. The work at 
Wheatsville is not hard or stressful, the 
atmosphere is one of acceptance and fun. I 
honestly don't think Robert Ovetz was doing 
much more than venting his acidic spleen. 
-Janet Blondeou, S.F. 

i' Nature is Amoral 

^ 'By Projecting Your Anger 

a You Will Never Examine 

5 Your Ufe 

il 'Love is a Process 

■-. 'Try Plan B 

• No God, No Master 

o NoMore If Onlys HQQ5 

^ #You Are Here I02LV 

od Collective Stupidity is the 

Real Conspiracy ^/l 05 
#Ar1 Is Infection IfBRun 

Hope for 

Freedom is Dangerous 
Stay Awai<e 

#Habits Kill 


^W TALK kDMU>gO^Mtt«> 

Stoned Socialism? 

Dear Editors, 

In port, the Institute for Stoned Socialism is 
continuing the work of Abbie Hoffman. In 
part, we take radical Christianity in Brazil (in 
its organized forms numbering in the mil- 
lions) and its relationship with the Workers' 
Party as a model. 

Your article on the Green Conference (PW 
22) was interesting. We take a less dim view 
of worker-ownership. In my own case, work- 
ing on my gardening business is a VAST 
improvement over the $4.75/hr. moil delivery 
job I hod for Crocker Bank in the Financial 
District. "Tired of bosses? Make them go 
away," (see below] was written from my 
experience. When there is a more favorable 
"business climate" for socialism, my skills 
can be applied to affordable housing co-ops 
and neighborhood parks. I'm also going to 
help guy I met start a catering business, so 
he con get rid of his $6/hr. cook job (he's 
now living out of his von). 

When it comes to worker-ownership, I con 
really get into the entrepreneurial spirit. This 
is something we con do NOW (though it is 
limited) to help people begin freeing them- 
selves from exploitation. It's better than 
whining endlessly and waiting for the Perfect 
Revolution to establish Pure Communism. 

At the Institute, we expect radicalism to be a 
major "growth industry" in the coming 
period. "At the Institute for the Development 
of Stoned Socialism, we're bullish on the 

-Psychedelic Socialism, c/o General Paper, 
Box 162, 12250 San Pablo Avenue, Rich- 
mond, California 94805 



Get Out of the needless grind of life under 

Get In to the quietly stoned serenity of 

• Abolish alarm clocks forever. No forced 
rush in the morning. Get up when you wont 
to, start work when you wont to, end work 
when you wont to. Take lunch when you wont 
to, and moke it long and languid if you like. 

• Cut commute time by 75 percent, by 
scheduling work around the Rush (it's no 
longer just on hour), and avoiding the 
Lemming Parade altogether. 

• NO exploiters and overpaid executives 
taking a fat, juicy cut of the wealth your labor 

• End ass-kissing and ugly office politics. 
Office politics remain under worker- 
ownership (unless you are on your own)-but 
on an entirely different basis, because the 
people doing the work decide democrati- 
cally how it is done and who gets paid what. 

• Get rid of obnoxious clients or customers. 
If your product is good and reliable, most 
people will be decent. 

. . After the rude pain of the coming 
economic downturn, the coming left-wing 
period will open up unprecedented oppor- 
tunities for worker-ownership. 


Institute for the Development of Stoned 

"Where we're getting Stoned on Reality." 

Humanism?! Ctirlstianlty?!? 

Dear Sir, 

Please cancel my subscription to your 
"Processed World." Your "Humanism" is out 
of style and is just some off-shoot of 
Chhstianity. Be honest with yourselves and 
join the Beast in you like I did. Narrow self 
interest is the nature of us ALL. Accept it. 

Thank you. 

M.P., prisoner-Stormville, NY 

Later tor London 

Hi Therel 

Good to hear you're still going strong. I dislike 
authority anyway, but since I moved to 
London from Scotland I've grown to detest it 
with an almost pathological hatred. The fairly 
loose squat scene I was involved in is being 
hounded now. The riots lost year over the Poll 
Tax hove been used as on excuse to 
persecute "undesirables," i.e. squatters, an- 
archists, people who don't conform easily. 
London is not a place to get too excited 
about just now. 

Anywo,v, I hope California is a bit better - of 
least you've got the weather for being 
unemployed in. 

More power to your keyboards. 

Love, lain 

Attitudes Everywhere 

Dear Processed World, 

I just bought the "Bad Attitude" anthology. I 
found it quite humorous, and I'm glad to see , 
leftist/anarchist publication that folks 
about such things as you do from a working 
person's standpoint. Although I am an un- 
skilled blue collar worker, I could sure relate 
to the articles, cartoons and tips on how 
subversion con start in the workplace. Not 
that I wasn't doing some of those things 
(time theft, free copying, etc.) already! I work 
in a somewhat upscale department store in 
Minneapolis, but not (thankfully) for much 
longer. After I quit in a few weeks, I'll take 
some time off, and then resume working, but 
only part-time. Anyway, the department store 
may be upscale, but my job sure isn't. 
Inhaling dust, exhaust fumes from nearby 
trucks, and on overbeonng boss (What's 
that? You hove one too? Naahhh!) don't 
exactly constitute ideal circumstances. 

Bye for now. 

D.S.-Minneapolis, MN 

Postal Gulag 

Dear PW: 

You don't know how long I've wanted both to 
submit something, and to tell you how much I 
enjoy PW. For a long time I've worked for the 
Postal Service as a letter earner. The Postal 
Service is a world which mokes most 
government gulogs seem like vocation day 
camp. Freighted with a two-century legacy of 
authoritarian, type-X management, it man- 
ages to alienate and enrage nearly every 
once-human who walks through its steel 
swinging doors, ready for the big bucks. But 
a year later, they've either turned into 
voidoids or closet moss-murderers. Anyhow, 
I've been writing down the notes, making the 
poems and stories of this work for more than 
thirteen years. I still haven't been able to gain 
the distance necessary to really write the 
story down the way it should be told. 

PW's article a few years bock on San 
Francisco's bicycle messengers mode me 
think that PW might be interested in picking 
up a few of these excerpts, journal entries, 
etc. I don't know, though, because more 
Marxist-leaning folks among your editorship 
might go along with the majority of Amenco, 
who think that the mailman is overpaid. If 
they knew, if you knew just how dearly and in 
what forms we pay, I suspect they'd change 
their minds. 

Anyhow, I'm not including any of this postal 
matenol, yet, only querying. But the stor- 
ies! . . . 

From the Gulag, 

Dr. Bolivar Shognosty, Montpelier, VT 

(Yes, doctor, send in your postal material. We 
are veerrry interested-Ed.) 

The Collar of Money (A Slaclter's Lament) 

Dear PW: 

I've noticed a pattern developing over the 
years. It seems as if every so many months I 

»*R.<:i>CISSSSI> >/VCI>R.4J> 213 

have to abandon my well-intended Protestant 
work ethic for the sanctuary of unemploy- 
ment. I'm what the human resources types 
derisively call "a job hopper." I get a job, 
buckle down and perform for a few months, 
then invariably something goes stale and 
have it out with someone, or business 
conveniently "slacks off " and out the door 


I've hod to look at this problem from all sorts 
of viewpoints over the years. Some of them 
paint me in a worse light than others, and 
they usually take the form of harsh self- 
analysis with emphasis on what is clearly my 
maladjustment to social conformity. And by 
contrast, of course, there are those which 
herald me a proud, misunderstood heroine, 
dignity in my kerchief, solemnly trodding the 
Road Less Travelled. 

Demogrophically everything should work. I'm 
white, I'm middle class, I'm white, and I like 
television. Why then, don't I like being white 
collar? Maybe it was the time the operations 
manager at the ad agency where I was a 
secretary/copywriter/coffee mug scrubber 
advised me to grow my fingernails longer 
and hove them manicured, and while I'm at 
it, learn to control my "gratuitous remarks." 
Or possibly the time, while working as a 
secretary for a temp agency, I enjoyed the 
responsibility of "running"" down to the deli 
and picking up 6 grown men"s lunches, 
bringing them bock to the office and serving 
them up microwave-hot on real tableware, 
with sodas in ice-filled tumblers. Maybe it 
was that time I got fired for "not closing the 
door properly,"" or the job where part of my 
daily duties included walking the boss"s dog 
and picking up the poop. Oh I know! It had to 
be the time I was asked to work overtime 
with no pay as an "investment" in my 
future. . . 

I'm no company joe, never have been. 
Neither was my father, and my mother used 
to roil at him about his lock of "initiative."" It is 
her voice I hear when I find myself griping 
about "inappropriate requests"" or circum- 
stances which "compromise" my "dignity." I 
hear her telling me to "grease your teeth with 
Vaseline in the morning so that when you 
grimace your lips slide up and they think 
you"re smiling.'" I hear her voice on the 
phone, tittering up the fiber optic cables from 
Palm Beach, decrying my everlasting "bod 

I used to think it was my low status around 
the workplace that fostered my rebellious 
spirit. I reasoned that once I got to be a white 
collar professional I would suddenly com- 
mand respect, fairness, and personalized 
"from the desk of"' notepads. Not so, I found 
out. When I finally became an account 
executive in a public relations firm, I found 
that after taxes I was making less money 
than I was as a secretary! 

I quit that job last week. I lost my temper 
when the boss refused to negotiate a more 
livable hourly rote. I seized the laundry list of 
"to dos" she"d given me and said, "fine-you 

do it!"" 

I"ve decided that it"s the white collar world 
that keeps me from being "a success."" I just 
don"t think I wont to "get on a career frock."' 
Nobody I know con appreciate this, because 
offer oil, I'm bright, college educated, articu- 
late, and talented to boot. Why wouldn't I 
wont a job title that leads to a better job title 
that leads to a mortgage, a car phone, a 
"check your stress level" paperweight, a 
secretary named Bev? 

I often write poems at work. Once, as a word 
processor in a headhunting firm, I processed 
this, then dashed over to the phnter to moke 
sure nobody got to it before me: 

Office plants 

have seen the advance 

Of the Information Age. 

What will you give them for their silence? 

When I am in an office I am mostly like a 
plant. I just don't get the point. I wonder why 
everyone else around me appears to. Then I 
wonder if maybe they don't either. I don't 

think anybody does. 

But like everybody else, I need the money. 
Only now ifs really getting tough. The 
recession does not smile upon those of us 
who are still sucking wind from the '80s. I'm 
down to tempting offers of "challenging, 
foot-in-the-door'" opportunities to answer 
multiple phone lines, xerox, sort, collate and 
staple important documents, and "juggle 
many diverse and interesting people."" Yeah 
right. . . I dont have to translate, do I? 

Somethings gone bananas with this world, 
and I think the baby boom generation is 
responsible. You see, in the sixties we got 
used to having values and purpose, and 
although the experiment failed we are still 
really attached to the idea of being important 
somehow. So we've gone and attributed 
emotions formerly of personal realms to our 
so-called "professional" lives. We are now 
"committed" to our career goals, and we 
have "drive, enthusiasm and passion" for our 
work, which in turn "fulfills" us. Of course, 

»»8«.0<:iESSEI> WOfftl-O 2iS* 

photo: D.S. Black 

what have we left? In the sixties our politics 
failed us, and in the seventies our "selves" 

I've been unemployed for 3 days now, and I 
hove no income and no prospects and no 
"initiative" and I don't care. I've totally 
burned out. Maybe like the loaves and fishes 
my bonk balance will forever multiply and I'll 
never have to revise my resume again. 
Maybe meaningful work will manifest itself to 
me in a brilliant, life-shattering flash. Maybe 
I'll wake up tomorrow and resolve to try if 

Maybe the spaceship will come by soon and 
pick me up. 

-Kathleen Quinn 

The Game Is The Problem 

Dear PW: 

I recently bought my first copy of Pro- 
cessed World, and it is bringing to the surface 
all those questions I hove about the nature of 
work, what is happening to this planet - and 
what my place is in this. For 8 1/2 years, I 
worked in a so-called "helping profession" in 
New York, assistance to crime victims. The 
people I worked with were often victims for 
life, not knowing any other way to live. They 
accepted abuse because they had been 
raised with it by people who had themselves 
been abused, ad nauseum, ad infinitum. 
Occasionally, I felt 1 was helping someone; 
over time, however, I burned out on the 
revolving door of victimization, on the cyni- 
cism of those for whom I worked (and yes, 
on my own cynicism), and on the fact that 
the criminal justice system treated no one as 
human, not even those who worked within if. 
I needed a change of venue, and in April of 
last year, I moved to San Francisco. 

Since then, I've worked in various jobs, 
mostly temping. I've been near the bottom of 
the employment food chain. I've also seen 
how abusive and self-destructive the top of 
the food chain is, and my choice is "none of 
the above." I've seen ulcers and heart 
attacks in the making, among people who 
are basically good, and all for the sake of 
selling more useless crap to people who 
don't need if, so that the people who ore 
selling con themselves make more money to 
buy more useless crap, sold to them by 
people who wont to buy more useless crap 

Early on, we are fought how little power we 
have over our lives. We are trained to give in 
and be content with our shore of the pie. We 
are not taught how to be happy; that is not 
even in the curriculum. Today, lip service is 
given to preserving plonetarv resources. 
United Way and other charities collect mon- 
ey for, no doubt, worthy causes. But we live in 
a society that is, of heart, a deadly and 
self-destructive organism, and this is reflect- 
ed in what people ore trained to think of as 
good work habits. Give if up for the company, 

The major factor in my awakening to the 


nature of abuse and self-abuse was getting 
clean and sober in 1981. As I began to treat 
myself and others better, it became more 
obvious how badly our institutions, private 
and public, treat us. As my eyes began to 
open, this societal toxicity became clearer. 
These institutions are managed by other 
people, who have numbed themselves to the 
consequences of their actions, and who ore 
therefore less than human, and fry to bring 
the rest of us down to their level. 

I don't hove any answers for anyone else. 
As a veteran, in my pre-teen and early teen 
years, of the antiwar movement of the '60s, I 
don't see hope within the left; they are 
playing the same gome, and It is the gome 
which Is the problem, not who Is winning It. . . 
The thought that the civil rights movement 
has brought us a Clarence Thomas is 
depressing; gay rights activists, feminists 
and others lose me when their aim becomes 
not to transform this society, but to be 
co-opted into it. It comes down to how I treat 
myself, how I treat you, how I treat this 
planet. And that includes the choices I make 
with regards to the way I earn a living (what 
a nauseating phrase that is!). Three years 
ago, I chose to become a vegetarian for this 
very reason-l wanted to do something for 
myself and not hove to kill (physically or 
psychically) anything by doing so. This 
month, I begin graduate school to gain entry 
to the kind of work that (a) I con enjoy, and 
(b) won't hurt others, and might even help 
someone. Yes, I wont all that useless crop, 
too, but I'm not willing to step over a certain 
line to get it. 

-Anonymous by fax from PG&E, Son 

The War Comes to Zaplcho 

Notice of the War in the Persian Gulf was 
communicated to Santa Cruz Zapicho on 
several dozen television screens that the 
"comuneros" (townspeople) had hauled in 
over the newly-paved road from the "fayuco" 
(contraband electronics) markets of Zamoro 
or Uruopan or else hondcarried home from 
California and Texas, where the young men 
here still disappear every year for whole 
seasons at a time. What Zopichans were told 
about the hostilities in the Gulf was pretty 
much the some mendacious disinformation 
that was repeated od nauseum to U.S. 
audiences: that Saddam Hussein was Hitler, 
that the Iraqi military was an even match for 
the U.S.-led Coalition's Killing Machine, that 
the Mother of All Bottles was being waged to 
promote peace, democracy and economic 

These boldfaced lies were conveyed into 
the little wooden homes that Toroscon Indian 
residents of the Michoocon highlands call 
"trojes" via skeletal antennas that received 
CNN transmissions as tunneled through 
Mexico's bankrupt state government net- 
work, "Imevision," or the Televiso repeater 
[Channel tuned to the communications giant's 
Iworldwide ECO system. 

"Are the oilwells still burning?" Erasma 
Garcia questioned me, glancing up from her 
grinding stone. And then, "they never 
bombed New York, no?" The set in the corner 
of her mother's drafty kitchen was dark 
now-it had finally blown a tube midway 
during the war, she said. She hod been 
watching the morning Pentagon press brief- 
ing when it died and blamed the Americans 
for the TV's demise. "They bombed the 
television towers" she proclaimed, con- 
vinced this explained the breakdown in 
communications, and gathered the tortilla 
moss into a large, floppy ball. Erasma had 
trucked her 12 inch Zenith 1500 miles from 
Tijuana where she lives and works several 
months a year in one of the border city's 
bursting garbage dumps. 

Dona Tere began slapping out the tortillas. 
She told me how she'd picked up a little of 
the war in Purepecha from the National 
Indigenous Institute station down in the 
municipal seat of Cheran. Had I been in Iraq 
since she lost saw me, she asked politely. I 
said I'd been in Son Francisco, frying to 
convince George Bush to stop bombing 
villages in Iraq that looked a lot like Zapicho. 
"The Americans killed many many people 
over there," Dona Tere said gravely to her 
daughter. They began slapping the tortillas 

I described how we had blocked a bridge 
up in San Francisco, in California. Miguel 
Balfozor, who builds whole villages inside 
empty "charondo" bottles when he's not 
working his family's cornfields, claimed that 
he had heard the protestors on the little 
transistor he has plugged into his ear these 

"They killed a quarter of a million people 
probably," I fold Miguel, "we'll never know 
how many. We hod to do something. The 
Americans were bombing the schools and 
the marketplaces and the air-raid shelters." 


storm the Reality Asylum 

•The Snakes Are Living in the Most Unbridled 

•Keep The Sharks From Your Heart 
•Labels Limit More Than Empower 
•Paradox is the Threshold of Truth 

Mighty Few People Think What They Think 
They Think 

•Perpetrators Become Victims of their Dominance 
•Only Drugs Make You As Happy as the People in Ads 
• Life is More Important Than Literature 

Learn By Going Where To Go 


f»R.OClESSHI> WOR-i-E* 2tSJ 

Goyo, 89, and Miguel eyed the fragile roof. 
"Hooch kah" Miguel breathed in the firelight, 
"that's what we thought." He translated what 
I had said into Purepecho for Tata Goyo who 
has gone stone deaf in Spanish and can only 
lip read his own language now. "Ho" he 
nodded vigorously as Miguel ticked off my 
information about the massacre. The word 
"paz" come up often in their interchange 
and I was surphsed the Taroscans do not 
have their own word for it. "Hooch kah, 
Juanito" Goyo muttered, "that's just what we 
thought happened over there." 

"I didn't pay much attention to what it said 
on the television-all the news broadcasts 
are dominated by the PR! anyway," Santiago 
responded when asked what he'd heard 
about The Other War. "Down in Cheron, the 
Cardenistas explained that Iraq was just 
defending its social rights when it took over 
that other place and so that is what I thought 
about the whole time. That Saddam was just 
doing what we were doing here in Zapicho, 
taking bock what was ours from the rich and 
powerful. The Imperialists never stop trying to 
enslave the poor ..." Santiago said that he 
had wanted to write Saddam and tell him all 
this but he didn't quite know where to send a 
letter. He handed me a schoolhouse note- 
book and I wrote out an address: "Saddam 
Hussein, Domicilio Gonocido, Baghdad, Re- 
publico de Iraq." "I don't know that their mail 
system is any better than Mexico's," I joked, 
"The Americans bombed all the post of- 
fices ..." 

-John Ross, S.F. & Michoocan 

Sitting In Judgement? 

Dear PW, 

Count me in for a "livable job," "a vision of 
a twenly-one hour work week with a thirty 
percent hike in pay as a concrete demand 
for the present." (Frog's review, PW 25.) I'm 
all for the world without pain, suffering, 
inequality, wont. Then we con move on to the 
real questions: How much is enough? Is 
death intrinsically evil? Beauty, Truth or Both? 
Why Love? 

Many of the work-related "bad attitude" 
pieces in PW are written by folks who don't 
want to work, period, which is great work if 
you can get it. But, neither successful 
unemployment nor finding a "good situation" 
personally is a social solution. Rather they 
are examples of finding a niche of mobility 
for select individuals, as preached by think- 

#^ ^ flh'^N^ 


ers from Bob Hope to Arnold Schwarzeneg- 

While we live in the here and now, PW 
consistently contrasts this world with a vague 
alternative that never existed, laying blame 
for the ills on this earth with the individuals 
who live upon the doorstep of capital. 
Surprise, surprise, money changing hands 
strains, stains, deforms, destroys relation- 
ships. . . 

What of human nature and non-monetary 
based power relationships? Who really is 
shocked that progressive jobs can be exploi- 
tative, or that politically correct employers 
can be nasty people? Politics is abstract: 
where we live is in our bodies and in our daily 
lives. Ifs in our bodies and daily lives we fail 
many of the standards we set for others. 

Which bhngs me to Med-o's contribution to 
lost issue's Talking Heads. By admission 
Med-o has a "good job," as a self-employed 
electrician and scam artist. 

What irks most about Med-o's high right- 
eousness ore his paragraphs on the war in 
the Middle East, which take abstraction to 
new depths. He smugly labels the militorY as 
a "good job," while going into no detail 
about the working conditions and the pay 
scale. He has no comment on the loss of 
personal liberty and the regimentation. Med-o 
makes no distinction between the enlisted 

and officer classes, and is not interested in 
racial make-up and discrimination. In sum- 
mation, he offers no alternative save the 
generic concept of resistance and offers up 
his solidarity with resistors on a silver platter. 

Does Med-o know anybody who has 
considered this enticing employment oppor- 
tunity? I don't, but then I suspect like most 
people associated with the PW collective, I 
was brought up with certain expectations. I 
have family and/or friends with money 
and/or resources if times turn bad. Most 
members of the collective are not members 
of racial minorities, and seem to have been 
raised in middle class surroundings. 

The Republican "blame the poor" mentali- 
ty has no trouble sitting in judgement. Neither 
does Med-o. 

If we blame those who sell out to the 
military, lefs also blame our parents and 
ourselves for paying rent, taxes, or eating in 
restaurants while others starve outside. 

As to Mordicus, I'm all for dada, agitprop, 
whatever it takes to get people to think, to 
woke up. Out of curiosity, who among the PW 
collective has been compelled to go home 
and break their TV after reading it? It doesn't 
apply to Us, how about "scalping journal- 
ists?" Well, no we're not really, in the 
conventional sense of the word, journalists. 



EO W<I>B<1.0 2t€$ 



he best job I ever lucked into was a "work-study" gig as the 
research assistant for an epidemiologist. My boss, Joel, was 
the typical absent-minded professor. In retrospect, I can see that 
he was a brilliant bio-statistician, but at the time I was more aware 
of his comically nerdy appearance and laudably relaxed manage- 
ment style. 

Joel was the junior member of a re- 
search duo investigating the environ- 
mental causes of cancer. The senior 
member, a suave and famous scientist, 
wrangled grants and handled PR. Joel, I 
suspect now, did all the actual research. 
He was an assistant professor in a tiny, 
newly formed department— Environmen- 
tal and Occupational Health Sciences — 
at the state School of Public Health. 

I worked half-time, 20 hours a week, 
on a pay sheet I filled out myself (very 
generously). Joel really didn't mind how 
much I worked, or how many hours I 
claimed. He would give me a list of 
articles to hunt up, and as long I 
produced the data he was happy. His life 
was so disorganized that being able to 
delegate this arcane but vital task was a 
relief to him. 

At the time I considered myself to be 
getting a very cushy deal, but I realize 
now that I was, in fact, giving pretty 
good value. Tracking down medical 
research data is a tricky task. It's not 
easy to find someone who can penetrate 
the jargon and work for student wages. I 
enjoyed hanging out in the library and 
the challenge of digging up an obscure 
study or squeezing raw data out of a 
reluctant researcher. 

I also got along well with my co- 
workers, not easy for an oddball like me. 
Everyone in EOHS shared two charac- 
teristics: we were a) radicals and b) 

Any serious look at the environmental 
causes of cancer quickly turns up a fact 
so obvious, so blatant, so patently true 
that it seems trite to pronounce it: 
industrial pollution is the major envi- 
ronmental cause of cancer. The huge 
corporations producing most of the 
carcinogenic waste pump millions into 
research obscuring this fact. However, 

Industry is rich and the Public is not. 

There was not a single person working 
at EOHS who couldn't get paid at least 
twice as much (for some, ten times as 
much) doing the identical job for "the 
other side." Anyone who stayed was 
either an idealist/radical/environmcn- 
talist, not very serious about Advancing 
Their Career, or too weird to hold a 
mainstream job. Most were all three. 

Every study we published 

was immediately chal- 
lenged by literally dozens 
of hig name researchers. 
It didn't seem to matter 
that they were directly 
funded by corporate 

Joel was focused on his esoteric re- 
search. He wasn't insensitive to Ad- 
vancing his Career, but he wasn't one of 
the (far more typical) academic careerists 
who research only what will get them 
tenure and promotions. He seemed con- 
tent to let Sam, his collaborator, hog 
most of the glory. As a teacher he was 
unpopular. His stuff (advanced biostatis- 
tics) was far too arcane for most students 
to follow, even if he didn't speak in an 
unintelligible mumble, and he had no 
talent for intra-departmental power 
struggles. He depended on Sam's clout to 
shield him from hostile administrators 
and competitive colleagues. 

Sam, the department head, was the 
least oddball, most mainstream, and 

fastest-advancing careerist in the outfit. 
He frequently spoke on TV, wrote 
environmental books, fished for the 
slippery but huge federal grants so vital 
to research, and fought the inter-depart- 
mental battles. EOHS was his creation 
and power-base. His famous name went 
on the top of all the research proposals 
as "principal investigator." This meant 
he got a personal percentage of the funds 
and top billing on any published studies. 

I think Sam was a sincere crusader, but 
he was no blind idealist. He always 
managed to profit personally fi-om his 
"selfless" crusading. When one of Sam's 
lab workers complained of unsafe work- 
ing conditions (lack of adequate ventila- 
tion in a carcinogen lab), he was swiftly 
fired — this in an outfit supposedly 
dedicated to defending worker safety! 

The rank-and-file ranged from mildly 
liberal Sierra Club types to committed 
radicals of various stripes. I ranked 
towards the bottom. At the time I was 
an openly gay revolutionary socialist, 
showing many early warning signs of 
Bad Attitude — not exactly Fortune 500 
material. Had I been interested in any- 
thing other than sex, drugs and the 
Revolution, I could have been using my 
position as a good "in" to a lucrative 
career in biomedical research. But I 
wasn't, and to me it was just a high- 
paying ($6 an hour— good for a student 
in 1980) low-hassle job. 

So we were a pretty counter-cultural 
crowd. There was a minimum of hierar- 
chical bullshit, and we were all sincerely 
dedicated to the cause. Environmental- 
ism was a popular and growing issue, 
and we were proud to be at its cutting 
edge. I don't think any of us ever 
dreamed, 12 years ago, that our work 
would be so completely ignored, and 
that Polluters would triumph so com- 
pletely over Defenders of the Environ- 

That we were out-numbered and out- 
gunned was obvious. Every study we 
published was immediately challenged 
by literally dozens of big-name re- 
searchers. It didn't seem to matter that 


e»R.o<:isssEr> wob*.*_c> 2t3 

2 ffii-Z 

"I was an openly gay revolutionary 
socialist, showing many early warning 
signs of Bad Attitude; not exactly Fortune 
500 material." 

they were directly funded by corporate 

Nor was the playing field for publishing 
level. The editors of the major journals 
were all members of the medical Good 
Old Boy network, and they instinctively 
took a dim view of radicals and environ- 
mentalists. We had a much harder time 
getting articles published than the in- 
dustry apologists did. 

Finally, our work had little potential 
to "pay off' in standard academic terms. 
Pleasing a major industry could easily 
result in millions of research dollars, a 
lucrative consulting career, and/or a 
Chair at a prestigious university. In fact, 
entire universities have been created/ 
funded by Industry (e.g., Carnegie Insti- 

Our major source of funds, aside from 
federal grants, was unions. They were a 
natural counterbalance to business in- 
terests, at least in the matter of occupa- 
tional risks. But they had nowhere near 
the money, and none of the academic 
clout, of the major corporations. They 
were David facing Goliath, and we were 
their sling. 

Even so, I naively hoped that Truth 
Will Out. Our case was so strong, our 
studies so clever, that I didn't see how 
they could fail to triumph. As I learned 
to search out flaws in research, I found 
that much of the opposition's work was 
blatantly faked (see "Sleazy Research 

But none of this seemed to matter. 
"Everything causes cancer!" people 
would say, disregarding any specific lab 
report on carcinogens. What we called 
"Lifestyle" theories of cancer were be- 
coming increasingly popular — studies 
"proving" that high-fat diets, or smok- 
ing, or Bad Attitude were "responsible" 
for cancer. 

And these lifestyle theories were 
quickly picked up and promoted by 
secondary interests — the stop-smoking 
clinics, the weight- and stress-reduction 
programs, and various Power-of-Positive- 
Thinking scams. 

After all, our studies led to conclusions 
that nobody liked. The environment 
was becoming increasingly toxic, billions 
would have to be spent to clean it up, 
and dozens of profitable industries pro- 
viding millions of jobs would have to be 
curtailed (or at least rendered less profit- 
able). Where would one even start to 
remedy the situation? It's so much easier 
to start a low-fat diet than it is to save 
the environment! 


"In retrospect I can see he was a brilliant 
bio-statistician, but at the time I was 
more aware of his comically nerdy ap- 

Ultimately, we depended on support, 
both moral and financial, from federal 
environmentalism to maintain this une- 
qual stuggle. When Ronald Reagan was 
elected we were doomed. The Reagan 
administration, like Bush's after it, was 
slavishly dedicated to "Business" inter- 
ests. The Environmental Protection 
Agency was one of their first targets, and 
it was soon reduced to chaotic impo- 
tence. Funding for projects like ours was 
cut off as fast as possible. My layoff 
(along with many others) was an- 
nounced within weeks of Reagan's vic- 
tory. Within a year the entire operation 
had been shut down. 


"The editors of the major journals were 
all members of the medical Good Old Boy 
network, and they instinctively took a 
dim view of radical environmentalists." 

Environmental 6t Occupational 
Health Sciences was soon cannibalized 
by its jealous sister departments. The 
rank-and-file dispersed. Some of the 
shrewder, less idealistic researchers 
found ways to market "environmental" 
studies so they fit in with Lifestyle 
theories — for example, researching the 
effects of "secondary" cigarette smoke on 
non-smokers in the same room. Joel lost 
his academic appointment and moved to 
another state and I soon lost track of 
him. Sam alone is still at the School of 
Public Health, producing well-reasoned 
critiques of the ever-popular Lifestyle 
theories of cancer. 

Much of what made my job at EOHS 
so good was that I was working for a 
decent boss in a tolerant workplace. But 
the cards were stacked against us, Joel 
and me both. Mere competence is rarely 
enough. The Carter years were an 
anomaly, and EOHS a heavily protected 
environment, a kind of wildlife preserve 
for absent-minded professors and radi- 
cals. I only wish I'd fully appreciated it at 
the time. 

—Kvoazte. 'babbit 

»»8«1><Z^ESSEC> W«:i>R.l-I> tits 



According to the rules, ttieories ottoin 
ttie status of Facts after they have been 
rigorously tested by reliable, replicable, 
high-quality research. In practice, a substan- 
tial body of published studies in The Best 
Journals (e.g. The Big Three: The New 
England Journal of Medicine, Science and 
Journal of the American Medical Associa- 
tion) supporting a given theory establishes it 
as a Fact. 

Often, however, the harried researcher, 
pressed for tinne in the pursuit of lucrative 
grants, or frustrated by studies that refuse 
(for unknown reasons) to produce the de- 
sired results, has recourse to certain short- 

Some of the most popular time-savers ore 
listed below. This is for from a comprehen- 
sive listing, but it gives a general idea of what 
you can get away with. Get a big-name 
scientist as co-author, the backing of a 
Prestigious Research Institute or University 
("backing," in this case, can be as minimal 
as use of PRI's letter-head and mailing 
address), and you're in business. 

Important Note: The underlying active 
ingredient in any of the following ploys is 
usually a powerful "Tell us what we want to 
hear" effect. If your study "proves" some- 
thing the prospective funder wants to believe, 
there will rarely be any problem. 


mentions, in a footnote, that Compound X 
has been "proved" completely harmless. 
Researcher B quotes A, and is in turn quoted 
by Researchers C, D and E. The next time 
Researcher A discusses the topic, he cites 
the papers by B, 0, D and E as further proof 
of his original claim. 

If someone tries to pin you down on your 
original footnote, cite a "personal communi- 
cation" (i.e., phone call or unofficial letter) 
with another scientist. It's best if your 
personal communicant lives far away, is 
difficult to reach, and doesn't speak English; 
or, better still, is dead. 

searcher A publishes a study proposing that 
smoking is responsible for 8 percent of all 
lung cancer. Researcher B cites this study, 
saying that smoking is responsible for "near- 
ly a tenth " of all lung cancer. Researcher 
translates this to 10 percent, and Researcher 
D points out that since smokers are only half 
the population, this 10 percent is really 20 
percent (logically this makes no sense, but 
on a tost read'ng it SEEMS to). 

Researcher E casually refers to D's paper, 
giving the statistic as ""almost a quarter" of 
the population (having forgotten that it was 
only smokers that D was talking about). 
Finally, Researcher A, upon reading E's 
report, notes that current studies show that 
smoking is responsible for three times as 
much of the lung cancer as he originally 
thought (i.e., 25 percent instead of 8 per- 
cent). When A's statement is published - 
prominently in several major daily newspa- 
pers - Researchers B, C, D and E all triple 
their previous estimates, citing the highly 
respected A. Thus, the original 8 percent has 
ballooned up, in E's revised estimate, to 75 

NAIVE SUBTRACTION: Dr. Industry decides 
to estimate the environmental causes of 
cancer by taking the known cancer rote and 
subtracting all "proven" sources of cancer 
from it. By using generous estimates for 
these causes - preferably "lifestyle " factors, 
like smoking and diet - Dr. Industry finds that 

only 2 or 3 percent of all cancers ore 

This tiny, residual number thus becomes 
the ceiling figure for environmentally-caused 

DRY-LABBING: To ""dry-lob" a study means 
to fake it; to moke up the numbers without 
actually bothering with all those test-tubes 
and things (thus leaving your laboratory nice 
and clean - i.e., "dry"). 

The chances that anyone will ever ask you 
to produce your original lab reports and 
notebooks are pretty slim. Recent experience 
shows that even if a lab worker sells out and 
denounces you, they are unlikely to be 
believed. Of course, someone could replicate 
your study and foil to get the some (i.e., 
faked) results; but you simply accuse them 
of screwing up somewhere. It will take, at the 
very least, several years for anyone to sort it 
all out. 



manded, OS a precondition to licensing, that 
DeothCos new product. Liquid Death, be 
tested for its potential to cause cancer. So 
DeathCo gives Liquid Death to 17,000 mice 
- but at a dose so high that they all die within 
weeks. Since it usually takes several months 
to develop a tumor, very few cancers ore 

Such high death-rate could be some 
cause for concern; however, the Fed didn't 
ask ""how many mice will drop dead in 
weeks?" it asked ""how many will develop 
cancer?" DeathCo's study is published as 
"proof" that Liquid Death doesn't cause 
cancer - "even when very high doses ore 
administered." This proof will stand, unchal- 
lenged, until someone with 17,000 spare 
mice decides to replicate the study. 

-Kwazee Wabbift 



,EO WOFtLO 2tSi 

the quest for 



vand moi 

hen the agricultural research group where I work first 
formed, it was looking into new ways to produce hardier 
more productive cereal crops. There were four scientists, all 
Ph.D.'s in their mid-thirties. Edgar, a chemist, was running the 
show; Pete, a biochemist; Rob, a plant physiologist; and Sergio, an 
agronomist from Central America. I was hired as their secretary 
and bookkeeper. Our little outfit was funded by a large industrial 
group which had decided to diversify its operations and explore 

We had a couple of small labs and a 
greenhouse on site. Cereal varieties were 
analyzed and tested in the greenhouse by 
Rob. Potentially interesting varieties were 
crossed to make superior cereal lines using 
a non-toxic chemical method developed 
by Pete. Then Sergio would supervise test 
plots out in the Sacramento Valley to see 
how the plants actually performed in 
terms of added yield. 

The pace of the work was moderated 
by the seasons. In November they 
planted in the fields, while during the 
spring, lab and greenhouse work contin- 
ued. In June we would go out to the hot 
valley to look at the results — maybe 20 
acres of test plots of old and new 
varieties of grain, all turning green to 
gold under the strong sun. The hybrid 
plants showed obvious new traits, some 
very short and close to the ground, some 
nearly as tall as us, some with good seed 
set, some with poor seed set, some 
beset by disease, and some thriving. 
The crops were harvested and taken 
back to the labs for analysis. In autumn 
the planting cycle began again. 

The program continued like this for 
several years. In agriculture they call it 
classical breeding. Desirable traits are 
developed in a hit-or-miss manner. You 
take one plant with a good strong trait, 
you cross it with another plant with 
other good traits, and you hope the 
resulting offspring will combine all the 
desired traits. It's a long, slow process. 
The produce in the supermarket repre- 
sents decades of development. 

f»R.O<ZESSE£> V»X<I>R.1-C* 3 

Our small group expanded with the 
hiring of a few more associate scientists 
for the chemistry work (one from Tai- 
wan and one an immigrant from main- 
land China). The first woman scientist 
of the group was a botanist hired to 
assist with lab and greenhouse work. 

We were a long way from any sort of 
actual product, and Edgar was getting 

Imagine the implications 

of spraying all the timber 

plantations in the semi' 

wild with herbicides. But 

there is no research into 

these ecological 


nervous about continued funding. The 
parent company seemed ambivalent, 
and Edgar thought we needed a hook to 
keep them interested. So Edgar, being an 
enterprising and up-to-date scientist, 
launched a huge lobby for a genetic 
engineering program. 

Genetic engineering of plants really 
represents a quantum leap over tradi- 
tional plant breeding. Instead of a trial- 
and-error procedure that lasts a decade, 
you can potentially identify, isolate and 
introduce a new gene into a plant in a 
year. The parent company, after some 
struggle, was won over to the wave of the 


future — the allure of reaping profits from 
the newborn science of plant genetic 

During the next couple of years the 
tone of the operation took on a totally 
new dimension. We constructed the 
latest in high tech labs in addition to 
several million dollars in equipment 
purchases. We hired a whole new group 
of credentialed scientists in the disci- 
plines of cell and molecular biology. Men 
and women in their 20's and early 30's, 
these scientists were the hotshots from 
the latest university genetics programs. 

In the new structure, Edgar became 
the scientist administrator. Pete and Rob 
continued the original work in bio- 
chemistry and plant physiology. Sergio 
spent all his time at the field station. 
Tim, a bright and driven Asian- 
American, was the Ph.D. running cellu- 
lar biology. Stephanie, an intelligent 
Ph.D. of few words, was running mole- 
cular biology. The cell and molecular 
groups each had a retinue of young new- 
breed genetic scientists, mostly Ameri- 
cans, three more Taiwanese, one east 
Indian and two Europeans. 

The workplace became a lot livelier. 
The group until then had consisted of 
your basic dedicated bench scientists, 
pretty much locked into their fields, 
sports being their main outside interest. 
The newer group consisted of generally 
younger singles who attended concerts, 
liked sports, paid some attention to the 
media, drove new sports cars and met 
socially outside of work. A few of the 
new scientists professed interest in en- 
vironmental causes and set up in-house 
recycling of paper and cans. 


When the new labs opened, a rift 
developed between the original scientists 
and the new group. In science these 
days, molecular and cell biology are "in." 
Chemistry and biochemistry still play a 


basic role, but biological disciplines such 
as physiology, which considers the whole 
organism, are "out." At the universities, 
all the aspiring biologists want to study 
genetics. As a result, their overall out- 
look tends to be limited to the microsco- 
pic level at best. 

For the first few years of the genetic 
engineering labs, Rob, the plant physi- 
ologist, was down in the dumps. He had 
been counseled that his specialty — the 
study of the overall plant and how it 
reacted with the surrounding environ- 
ment — was no longer where it was at. 
To be more employable he needed to get 
into molecules. When the labs developed 
plant lines that had to move into the 
greenhouse, and then outdoors into an 
actual field, it became apparent that the 
molecular and cell people didn't know 
the first thing about whole plants. They 
didn't consider, for example, that if you 
move a gene that influences a certain 
stage of growth, it might affect the 
overall maturation of the plant. At that 
point it was decided that the plant 
physiologist better give a few quick 
seminars to the rest of the group. His 
dignity was partially restored until the 
young assistant botanist transferred to 
the cell biology lab to rev up her skills. 
Now Rob can't find another assistant to 
hire. He told me, "They don't train 
people like me anymore." This man is 39 
years old! 


Observing this episode with Rob, and 
seeing the whirlwind changes brought by 
genetic engineering, made me look more 
closely at what was happening. It's been 
barely 20 years since the first gene splice. 
The field of molecular biology, initiated 


Stumus vulgaris 

Common Starling 

Muridus urbanicis 

Common Rat 

Columbidus urbanicis 

Common Pigeon 


by Rockefeller Foundation grants in the 
mid- 1930s, has finally come into its own 
during this past decade and a half. It has 
received tremendous research and devel- 
opment funding. 

1970s: For the first time molecular 
biology succeeded in controlled manipu- 
lation of genetic material. Pieces of 
genetic material were successfully moved 
from one organism to another. In 1975 
the international scientific community, 
awed by the magnitude of this break- 
through, held a conference at Asilomar, 
California, and actually declared a mor- 
atorium on all genetic research until 
enough was known to control this 
emerging technology. 

1980s: The business element in the 
scientific community gained enough in- 
fluence to reverse the scientists' morato- 
rium. Huge venture capital investments 

Thanks Genetech!. . . These rice 
make work so much easier! 

plants with velcro® roots 
GENETECH: Because we care/ 

Graphic: Trixie T-Square 

were made as genetic engineering re- 
search again proceeded at full speed. The 
door was opened wider by a 1980 
Supreme Court decision granting the 
first patent on a process for genetic 
manipulation to Stanford and UC 
Berkeley. It was astonishing in two 
respects. It was the first patent on a life 
form, and it was the first time academia 
formally entered the business world with 
a patent. During the 1980s, investment 
poured into medicine and agriculture to 
develop applications. 

1990s: After ten full years of major 
investment there are few significant 
biotechnology products on the market. 
Research takes time and the developing 
technologies have barely matured. Bio- 
medicine is a little closer to bringing 
products to market than is bioagricul- 
ture. The venture capitalists are getting 
very anxious and are pushing hard for 

Under this pressure, there could be a 
whole series of useless and/or damaging 
genetic technology spin-off applications, 
such as herbicide tolerance. Not only is 
industry usurping the new technology to 
protect its earlier investments in obsolete 
technology, they are also in a mad rush 
to commercialize and get immediate 
returns on investment before the tech- 
nology's potential is even halfway real- 

In an infinite range of possibilities, the 
industrial sponsors are having a bigger 
say than ever before in what science is 
actually developing. The universities are 
busy organizing academic biotechnology 
consortia to facilitate the flow of basic 
research to industry (in return for fund- 
ing and a piece of the patent action). The 


f»R.Cl><ZHSSEC* >/»•<:> FtLO 2tS 

ties between academia and industry, 
always present, have reached unprece- 
dented levels in the case of biotechnolo- 

Genetically engineered herbicide tol- 
erance is an interesting case in point, 
though it's not a project at the labs 
where I work. The agrichemical compa- 
nies became the biggest backers of 
genetic engineering of plants in the early 
1980s. They invested early, and financed 
full scale in-house research labs. Finding 
a specific gene that carries a specific trait 
is one of the difficulties of genetic 

The scientists in those labs isolated the 
gene for herbicide tolerance during their 
continuous testing and studying of how 
herbicides act on plants. The agrichemi- 
cal companies now have an "isolated 
herbicide tolerant gene" that they can 
move into crops that are plagued by 
weeds, like cotton. A farmer sprays his 
cotton crop like crazy, the cotton thrives, 
the weeds don't grow, and the company 
sells genetically altered crop lines and 
more herbicide than ever. 

This herbicide tolerance is actually one 
of the few genes currently isolated, 
identified and in the stage of advanced 
product development. In many other 
agricultural labs the rush is on to get to 
market with a similar product in order to 
stay competitive. It is very likely that 
some of the first genetically engineered 
plants will be herbicide resistant varie- 
ties, both crop plants and forest timber 

The research stops here— the skills de- 
veloped toward gene isolation and ma- 
nipulation are put on hold while the 
rush to product development takes over. 
Imagine the implications of spraying all 
the timber plantations in the semi-wild 
with herbicides. But there is no research 
into these ecological consequences- 
research dollars are committed to bring- 
ing products to market as soon as 


Back in our labs, the push is on. I've 
asked a number of scientists how they 
feel about herbicide tolerance being the 
pilot product of genetic engineering. 
How do they feel about the way the 
technology they develop is actually ap- 
plied? Stephanie smiles, and though she 
is the leader of the molecular biology 
group, she just shakes her head and says 
she's glad herbicide tolerance isn't one of 

our projects. Rob also shakes his head, 
doesn't say anything. He's already had 
the funding pulled out from under 
projects he's worked on at two other 
labs, losing his job both times. He's not 
too anxious to make any statements. 
Pete, busy at the chemistry bench, 
shrugs his shoulders and acknowledges 
that funding is everything. "You work 
on what they are willing to fund." 

Steven, one of the younger scientists, 
once confided to me that the herbicide 
tolerance work is dangerous. He was 
labeled a liberal by the rest of the group 
for being against the attack on Iraq. This 
relatively mild political stance made his 
lab mate so uncomfortable she stopped 
speaking to him. He recently left the 
labs to go back to graduate school and 
study environmental law. Two years 
ago another young cell biologist left for 
law school. He, however, was going to be 
a patent attorney. 

Stephanie, Rob and Steven, the dedicat- 
ed bench scientists, are not the driving 
forces of the operation. There is another 
career track in the labs, the scientist 
turned businessman/manager. Tim, the 
cell biology leader, is competent and 
professional, and definitely a candidate 
for the business track, although he 

rather ruefully told me one day, "I went 
to graduate school in the '70s. The 
structure of DNA had just been identi- 
fied. It was incredibly exciting. The 
scientists in those years had a say in the 
direction the discovery could take. There 
was a tremendous amount of debate on 
the responsible application of the sci- 
ence. I never would have believed then 
that I would end up working in indus- 
try." He now is wholeheartedly commit- 
ted to the projects assigned to him. 

Edgar has been sharpening his business 
and management skills, and has teamed 
with go-getter Matt, who is a Ph.D. in 
biochemistry turned MBA. Together 
they have plans to take our group to the 
top, to be first in both technology and 
business development. They are a fair 
representation of what science is these 
days: competitive and very business 
oriented. Not long ago I heard Matt 
comment, "we've got the solution, now 
all we need is the problem." He was 
talking about some finding on altering 
the starch content in wheat that had the 
potential of being applied to pasta 
production. It turns out that the big focxl 
processors have a problem with pasta 
microwavability — the pasta gets mushy. 
—Robin Wheaxworth 

Separations Cells Can Live With 

Our new Elutriator Rotor not only 
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one another, it brilliantly separates 
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Moreover, our 

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Separations — 

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We are extending this 

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f*R.<:i><i:sssso wofftiLC* a^a 




hjk specter haunted the Third National Agricuhural Biotech 
/^•^ V nology Conference (NABC-3), held earlier this year 
^ Sacramento, California — the specter of ecology. One felt its pres- 
ence almost immediately, when a more-or-less generic industry 
hack, Ralph W. Hardy, president of Boyce Thompson Institute, 
gave an obviously well-rehearsed rant against radical environ- 
mentalists. Nothing special — just your standard environmentalists- 
dark stuff— but the crowd loved it. 

As the day wore on, though, it became 
obvious that Hardy's old-school ideology 
wasn't the only item on the menu. This 
sterile hotel conference center was host 
to some notably up-to-date, even experi- 
mental, forms of greenwashing. Bio- 
technology was no longer, as in the early 
1970s, being framed in Promethean, 
steal-god's-thunder, engineering-of-life 
terms. Now it's just a science of genetic 
"modification," not so very different from 
brewing or bread making. As one re- 
cent volume. Agricultural Biotechnology: 
Issues and Choices, put it: "biotechnology 
is around us every day, just as it was for 
our ancestors." Today's techniques, from 
gene splicing to industrial cloning, are 
just a bit more precise, but this is only 
an evolutionary— not a revolutionary- 

Still worried? Better get used to it! 
There were lots o{ midwestern research 
homeboys here to explain that in a time 
of rising population and famine, produc- 
tivity is the only important fact of 
agricultural life. The world needs more 
food, and biotechnology is the only 
practical way to provide it. Ask British 
multinational ICI Seeds, which has 
devoted an entire publication. Feeding 
the World, to arguing that biotech "will 
be the most reliable and environmental- 
ly acceptable way to secure the world's 
food supplies." Or ask Eli Lilly, a 
transnational drug company that's 
diversifying into biotech: "We will need 
dramatic progress in the productivity of 
agriculture to limit starvation and the 
social chaos which overpopulation will 

Biotechnology has its critics, of course, 
but they are largely naive urban dwellers 
who don't even realize they're speaking 
for starvation! In fact — and this is the 
real kicker — biotechnology is the key to 
making the "sustainable agriculture" we 
all want more practical. It'll even make it 

Biotech is being shaped 

not by the aesthetic joy of 

fundamental science, or 

even by the hard-headed 

practicalities of a world 

on the edge of mass star- 

vation, but by ''the 

nature of its being 

a product/* 

possible to phase out dangerous chemi- 
cal pesticides and herbicides (in favor of 
new "biopesticides") without suffering 
catastrophically reduced yields. 

Ecology was, in other words, the 
theme of NABC-3. We were even 
shown a slide of some agricultural re- 
search buildings surrounded by high 
cyclone fencing, and invited to bemoan 
the precious funds wasted protecting 
such facilities from marauding bands of 
"technology-hating Luddites." Then we 
got a report on progress towards "more 
efficient cows" able to produce more 
protein per measure of fodder. This is an 

especially twisted homage to ecology, for 
the realization that cows are "inefficient" 
producers of usable protein, and that 
there would be plenty of food to go 
around if people ate less meat, traces 
directly back to Francis Moore Lappe's 
Diet for a Small Planet, first published in 
1971 by Friends of the Earth. 

Welcome to the future, where "sus- 
tainability" — the vaguest term in the 
environmental lexicon — joins "produc- 
tivity" as the basis of the campaign to 
once again equate technology and hope. 
And why not? Sustainability is like apple 
pie — everyone loves it. The tough 
questions concern how the apples are to 
be grown, and if the wheat in the crust 
should be a mix of native varietals or a 
high-tech hybrid. The answers to these 
questions are significant both as propa- 
ganda and as agricultural technique. In 
fact, it's beginning to look like the 
biotechnology industry has, to some 
extent, chosen research programs suit- 
able for backing up its new claims to be 
environmentally friendly. 

If you doubt these claims, don't make 
the mistake of assuming that others 
share your suspicions. As Walter Truett 
Anderson put it in the NABC-3 keynote 
address, "Environmentalists tend to be 
very suspicious of technological fixes, 
but the general public has no such 
reservations. Technological fixes will do 
fine. They will not only be tolerated, 
they'll be demanded." 

Anderson as keynote speaker is itself 
notable. Anderson is a regular at the 
Pacific News Service, a left-liberal outfit 
with a love for the offbeat, but not 
necessarily radical, angle. An "environ- 
mentalist" with career ambitions in 
apolitical mainstream futurism, Ander- 
son is the author of To Govern Evolution: 
Further Adventures of the Political Animal, 
a book in which he steps back and takes 
the big picture of biopolitics, counting it 
as encompassing everything from eco- 
systems restoration to genetic engineer- 
ing, industrial policy to the dilemmas 
posed by emerging medical technologies. 


f»«.Cl>CIESSEIl» WOR.t-0 :aSJ 

Anderson was speaking at NABC-3 
because he sees biopolitics in a way that, 
if not altogether flattering to the bio- 
technology industry, is actively hostile to 
the radical green culture, which he 
claims makes "a religion out of being 
frightened." The inevitable reality, ac- 
cording to Anderson, is that from now 
on nature must fall explicitly within the 
ambit of politics. Evolution must be 
managed, whether we like it or not! It's 
an abstract assertion, though true 
enough — the problem is that Anderson 
was clearly speaking, at this conclave of 
industry functionaries, as one manager 
to his fellows. 


In 1986, a group of radical greens stole 
onto the grounds of Advanced Genetic 
Sciences, near Davis, California, and 
destroyed a strawberry field that had 
been sprayed with a "genetically mani- 
pulated organism" named Ice Minus. 
TTie media attacked them as "Luddites," 
but they were hardly offended. I 
know one of them, and he wears 
the label "Luddite" proudly. Not that 
my buddy (a graduate of MIT) is the 
enemy of "technology" in general. Better 
to say that he opposes biotechnology 
because he sees it as embodying the 
interests of a dangerous and perhaps 
insane society. In fact, the real difference 
between him and all the millions of 
others who harbor fears about high-tech 
society may be one of degree — and, of 
course, that he has found occasion to 
express his feelings on a few benighted 

Is Anderson wrong, then, to claim 
that most members of the "general 
public" will welcome technological 
fixes — especially if things get much 
worse? It's impossible to say. Techno- 
logical utopianism, an old and well- 
established tradition that thrives in 
apolitical America, endures despite 
the decidedly bad reputation that 
science and technology have picked 
up in the last 20 years. The spirit of 
the day is ambivalence, composed of 
equal parts of dread and techno- 
fixism. Terminator 2, the killing 
machine as good guy and responsible 
father, is our perfect mascot. 

The fog of fear and television keeps 
most of us from getting a clear fix on the 
core institutions of society, the institu- 
tions that shape the machines. But the 
machines are right before our eyes — 
easy to admire, to desire, to fear. They 
promise ease and comfort, or at least 


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images of ease and comfort. Unfortu- 
nately they seem as well the agents of a 
new and threatening world. ^X^at better 
response than confusion and ambivalence? 

Among environmentalists, science 
and technology are topics of daily 
conversation in a way that would 
have surprised the early radical critics 
of technoscience — Lewis Mumford, 
for example, or Herbert Marcuse. The 
ideas of such thinkers find an un- 
precedented popularity in the green 
movement, though their precise histories 
are rarely known. The odd thing is that 
among the greens these ideas find a 
strange company of fine, strong radical- 
ism, and bucolic simple-mindedness. 
Regrettably, green radicalism seems to 
somehow depend on the simple-minded- 
ness, to lean on it for support and 

The perfect case in point is Jeremy 
Rifkin, the man whose inspired fu- 
sion of legal activism and highfalutin' 
anti-biotech proselytizing has virtual- 
ly defined the battle against genetic 
engineering in the United States. A 
self-styled "heretic" who has made it 
his mission to lead a prohibitionist 
campaign against biotechnology, Rif- 
kin has worked hard to find solid 
theoretical ground for his politics of 
almost complete refusal. He has 
found it in a theory of "species integ- 
rity" and the morally transgressive 
nature of biotechnology. Not coinci- 
dentally, this theory has been widely 
influential among biotech's deep-green 

It's difficult to criticize Rifkin's 
ideas without seeming to fall into 
league with an industry that would 
happily see him dead, yet it is 
important to do so. Rifkin has come 
to stand for the politics of technologi- 
cal taboo, and has defined the issues 
raised by biotechnology in an over- 
blown way that — though catalyzing 
both attention and opposition — has 
also led us into an ideological back- 
water from which it will be hard to 

Rifkin's attack on biotechnology is 
— to use the jargon of the day — 
essentialist. What he is telling us is 
that the fundamental techniques of the 
new science, those that mix genetic 
materials between animals and between 
species, are irredeemable expressions of a 
drive to subjugate nature and of a mania 
for "efficiency." It is a position that is 
close to the truth, but not close enough 
to make real sense of our predicament. 

Rifkin, like almost everyone else who 
has tried to find a politics of technology 
that is both radical and popular, punts on 
the really tough question. How does one 
simultaneously focus on the momentous 
macro issues raised by the new techno- 
logies, and the ail-too prosaic social 
institutions that shape them? Instead, he 
draws a line in the sand, charging 
biotechnology with the sin of reducing 
species to information sequences, and 
then going on to mix these sequences 
without regard to their "sanctity." It is 
true, but only in caricature — all detail, 

••B«.<r><Z:ESSEI> W<I>R.t.O as 


political as well as scientific, has been 
banished. The issue becomes simply 
"Should we play God?" Stephen 
Jay Gould, one of our finest evolution- 
ists, has described Rifkin's Algeny as "a 
cleverly constructed piece of anti- 
intellectual propaganda masquerading as 
scholarship." In fact, his work is so 
undermined by shoddy overgeneraliza- 
tion that its major points of interest may 
be its popularity and the part it has 
played in mobilizing a campaign against 

At issue here are the politics of fear and 
exaggeration. The larger ecology move- 
ment often relies on campaigns much 
like those that Rifkin uses to organize 
resistance to biotechnology. Note 
that while Rifkinite hyperbole backs an 

free ^^»aAat f>«,ii^/i^/^ 6^U.^n^ 

agenda most of us would probably 
support, it hasn't actually stopped, or 
even significantly slowed, the overall 

development of biotechnology. In fact, it 
has helped prompt the current effort 
by biotech's boosters to position it as a 
green technology, and worse, it has 
theoretically disarmed environmental 
activists in the bargain. The new "we- 
feed-the-hungry" line is a strong one, 
and may succeed in washing most of 
Rifkin's accomplishments off the map. 

All of which is to say that a shortcut 
politics of refusal (Luddism) was never 
enough, and certainly will not do today. 
"No nukes" is not enough. "No bio- 
technology" is, at best, a sad joke. If you 
don't think so, ask a friend with AIDS. 
Consider why AIDS activists and greens 
—who would seem by their common in- 
terest in the politics of science to be 
natural allies — disagree so deeply about 

The facility was crude, a tacky converted 
waretiouse with oftice dividers, ugly carpets 
and a U.S. map displayed to give the 
innpression that Biohell was larger than it 
was. The lab area was a converted kitchen 
(linoleum floors intact) with lunch tables 
covered with biotech godgetry. 'This is 
where you'll be working, Chudaman," Tony 
told me. "This will be your desk, that one is 
mine. That is, if you want the job." 

I took the job without thinking twice. I'd be 
getting $16,000 a year, with medical and 
dental insurance, paid sick leave, vocations 
and holidays. Because it was a young 
business, I would be able to "grow with the 
company, " taking on responsibilities usually 
reserved tor people with four or five years 
experience at more established companies. 
There was even the possibility that I would 
get stock options when they went public! 

I didn't realize that I could have made 
much more money elsewhere, even at an 
academic research lab. My benefits didn't 
include disability or pension and the stock 
options were just a scam. The "important 
responsibilities" were just a euphemism for 
"working even harder, for longer hours, for 
the same low pay." 

Initially, the job was enjoyable. Tony 
treated me like a friend and equal. We would 
talk and goof off instead of working. We 
shared the work equally when we did work. 
Things began to change, however, when 
Tony moved into sales to try to make more 
money. He was moved into his own office 
where he "would no longer have any distrac- 
tions." Soon he was moved to Poughkeepsie 
to be a district representative for the east 
coast. After several months of low sales, he 
was canned and left to rot in New Jersey with 
only two months severance pay. 

My new boss was Rajiv, president of the 
company. One of his grand plans was to 
market chromatography columns to the oil 
companies to help them clean up spills at 

sea. The most likely source of energy for 
these pumps on a boat would be oil itself; 
perhaps he should have looked into a pump 
that powers itself with the crude oil it sucks 
up, a perpetual motion machine. 

Rajiv always watched me, noting what 
time I come and left and how long I took for 
lunch. He come into the lab every hour to 
check up on me. "You're not on hourly 
worker," he would tell me. "We have no time 
clocks here or stnct hours. You're paid a 
salary to get a job done. If it means working 
more than eight hours occasionally, then 
you work more than eight hours. 

This attitude prevails in the life sciences. 
Technicians ore expected to work until a job 
is completed, often within a rigid schedule. 
Some bosses allow their technicians to leave 
early if on experiment is completed, knowing 
there will be other days when their employ- 
ees will work late. Others, like Rajiv, soy this 
is their policy but then find extra work on 
short days. This policy is justified on the 
grounds that some experiments take more 
than eight hours to set up and run to 
completion and that it's sometimes impossi- 
ble to stop an experiment at certain steps 
without ruining the results. However, virtually 
any experiment can be planned so that there 
is a convenient stopping point within an eight 
hour day. Bosses in the biotech industry 
overwork their technicians because they 
want to get more productivity for less pay. 

Often new experiments would be started 
late in the day rather than allowing the 
employees to leave early. Work is given us to 
take home or we are expected to come in on 
the weekend. Sadly, most workers accept 
this OS normal condition of their employ- 
ment. Many believe they ore fulfilling on 
obligation. Others see a 50-60 hour work 
week as justifiable in light of their "high" 

At some point duhng my employment at 
Biohell, I was informed that I would have to 
work on production-in addition to my normal 

job of research and development. Rajiv 
made me take over Tony's old job of 
technical service as well. This would be 
short-term, he assured me, but it lasted the 
rest of the time I was there. 

Technical service entailed calling up the 
customers and checking on their progress 
with Biohell products. It meant dressing up in 
a suit and tie and going out to their lobs to fix 
problems. I had to kiss up to irate, frustrated 
customers. I often caught a plane at five 
o'clock in the morning and hod to fight traffic 
in a strange city in a cheap rental car, not to 
get home until after 10 or 11 p.m. Manage- 
ment considered it a privilege to travel for 
free, as if I was on an all expenses paid 
vocation. The only privilege I got on these 
business trips was to eat out on the company 
expense account, usually at a greasy truck 
stop or fast food joint since the customers 
were located in suburban nowhere. 

Fed up, I began to work as slow as 
possible, taking care of personal business at 
work, making long distance colls to friends. 
During my technical service work, I would 
make no more than two colls a day and 
claim the lines were busy. I refused to pick 
up the phone when customers called, telling 
the secretary, through the intercom, that I 
was in the middle of on important experi- 

As for research and development, I'd 
forget to order basic supplies, chemicals, 
glassware, etc. I could delay an expenment 
for weeks this way and create "tree " time. I 
became very clumsy around expensive 

All my sabotage brought me great satis- 
faction and gave Rajiv stress and frustration. 
Finally, he called me into his office and with 
-grim expression, explained that the com- 
pany was not doing well financially. "We can 
no longer afford to poy for your position, 
Chudaman." I ran out of the office whooping 
it up, straight to the unemployment office. 

-Chudaman Royals 


»*B«I><:iHSiSSI> WC:>R.l^r> ^SJ 



% '^^^^cZ'^^'ffi 




genetic research. 

The widespread anti-biotech politics is 
not, and cannot, be coherent. Better to 
see it as a statement of purpose, a seeking 
after a radical biopolitics that does not 
yet exist. Radical greens call for a revolt 
against the engineering mentality and 
the domination of nature by an exter- 
minist industrial capitalism. Opposing 
biotechnology seems like the right thing 
to do. 

Radical greens are trying to come up 
with a politics as revolutionary as tech- 
noscience itself. And why not? The daily 
papers are heavy with articles about 
synthetic growth hormone extending 
human lifespans, and even about plans 
for increasing the efficiency of photo- 
synthesis. Meanwhile, the left press runs 
the odd piece about DNA as key to a 
new generation of biological weapons. A 
certain fear is appropriate, and only the 
industry's PR flacks think we should stop 
worrying and love the clone. 

I can agree with Anderson's big- 
picture definition of the biopolitical 
battleground, if not the false impartiality 
in which it is framed. Biopolitics does 
include everything from the politics of 
extinction to the ethics of life extension 
and the economics of artificial growth 
hormones. And, as Anderson points 
out, agriculture — where biotechnology 
meets ecology — is on the front lines of 
the battle. 

Shall we see biotech as do the radical 
environmentalists, the ones for whom 
that expensive chain-link fence was 
built? Is there any alternative in a debate 

defined on one side by reductionists like 
Rifkin who argue that biotech violates 
some essential sanctity of life, and on the 
other by an industry PR apparatus that 
seeks to frame biotechnology as high- 
tech beer making? 

It is a tough question. Biotechnology 
is a product not of any magical in- 
spiration, but of a long process of grad- 
ual refinement and innovation. Yet 
biotech really does seem to be revolu- 
tionary, more evidence for Hegel's 
old saw about quantitative changes add- 
ing up to qualitative ones. DNA is, at 
bottom, a script, and biotechnology a 
writing technology. We may never be 
able to equal the works of evolution, 
that grand playwright, but we do seem to 
be learning to read— and to plagiarize. 
It's a prospect that should scare us, 
especially given the nature of the institu- 
tions within which these breakthroughs 
are taking place. 


The biotechnology revolution is over- 
whelming in its implications; no argu- 
ment here. Still, we must deal with the 
issues it raises without immediately fall- 
ing back on abstractions like "the sanc- 
tity of nature" and "technology." Such 
concepts put too much stress on the 
large and the mythic — not always the 

wrong thing to do, but dangerous if 
specifics get pushed into the back- 
ground. Who's doing what to whom? — 
this is the primal question of politics, 
and biopolitics is no exception. 

In the case of agricultural biotech, the 
specifics are Bovine Growth Hormone 
(BGH), pesticide- and herbicide-resistant 
crops and all the other high-tech farm 
products. The myths of the biotech 
revolution are best tested by examining 
such specific facts. Is BGH a violation of 
the metaphysical integrity of the cow, or 
a fancy new way to make money? 
($250 million has been spent on devel- 
opment alone, and some estimates peg 
annual sales at $2.5 billion.) The answer 
makes a difference. 

In The End of 'Nature, Bill McKibben — 
who hews to the deep-green line — 
quotes a grotesque British work named 
Future Man, in which future genetically- 
engineered farm animals are celebrated 
for their efficiency and productivity. The 
"battery chickens" of the future, 
"whether they are being used to produce 
eggs or meat," will no longer look like 
birds. Biotech will allow us to design 
chickens without the "unnecessary" 
heads, wings and tails. "Nutrients would 
be pumped in and wastes pumped out 
through tubes connected to the body." 
Lamb chops will be even better, since 
they will be grown on a production line 







Graphic: Mickey D. 

»»B<0<:iESSEC> WOFCt-C* :a€J 


"with red meat and fat attached to an 
ever-elongating spine of bone." 

The more one knows about the mar- 
riage of biotech research and corporate 
agriculture, the clearer it becomes that — 
despite its horror — such a system of 
meat production would most likely be 
put into practice as soon as it was 
technologically feasible. Jonathan J. 
MacQuinty, the president of GenPharm 
(which has developed the ability to alter 
cows so that their milk contains human 
proteins like lactoferrin, useful for treat- 
ing both cancer and AIDS), recently set 
us straight on the nature of farm ani- 
mals: "We think of them as cows, but 
these are actually self-feeding, self- 
replicating bioreactors." 

Some environmentalists are soft on 
biotechnology, though not as many as 
Monsanto would have us believe. To be 
sure, crops altered to resist pests without 
chemical pesticides have a place in a 
green future. There are even those in the 
environmental movement (more of An- 
derson's persuasion than of McKibben's) 
who have begun to talk about a biotech- 
nological "soft path." Still, the real 
question isn't if such a potential is there 
(it almost certainly is) but if there's any 
good reason to think that it can be 

realized in this society. It is a very 
different question indeed. 

Even herbicide-resistant crops could be 
helpful, depending on the herbicides 
they're resistant to. It doesn't take much 
research, though, to learn that real- 
world product development is running 
along lines altogether askew from those 
implied by the rhetoric of the green- 
washers. New developments in herbicide 
tolerant crops, for example, are not 
limited to developing less toxic herbi- 
cides (the "potential" that the green 
critics of agricultural biotech are forever 
being reminded of). Rather, agricultural 
biotechnology is being developed in 
ways that almost guarantee that it'll 
become just another escalation in the 
ecological war between biochemicals and 

Margaret G. Mellon, director of the 
National Biotechnology Policy Center of 
the National Wildlife Federation, also 
spoke at NABC-3 — and it was clear 
that she in no way fit Anderson's 
stereotype of the emotional green Lud- 
dite. Mellon made the most important 
point of the day: biotech is being shaped 
not by the aesthetic joy of fundamental 
science, or even by the hard-headed 
practicalities of a world on the edge of 

mass starvation, but by "the nature of its 
being a product." That is about as close 
as anyone can come, these days, to 
publicly saying "by its nature as a 

That it is shaped by its "nature" as a 
"product," the dirty public secret of bio- 
technology is as well the secret of infor- 
mation technology, energy technology and 
just about any other kind of technology 
you care to mention. The PR flacks may 
sputter about how bioscientists are 
hunched in their labs, working hard so 
that little Johnny and Juanita will have 
enough to eat in the dark days ahead — 
but it's bullshit and they know it 
themselves. Agricultural biotechnology 
is being shaped by the corporate farms 
and the academic/corporate network 
that stands behind them. This is the 
world of chemical monoculture, of fac- 
tory-floor farming and dying rural 
towns, of mealy apples and tasteless 
tomatoes that never ripen. Hundreds of 
millions of dollars have been spent 
developing BGH because some execu- 
tives somewhere think they'll make a 
killing. End of story. Sustainable agri- 
culture is only a convenient lie. 

Margaret Mellon didn't come right out 
and say all this, of course. Instead, she 


f*Ft<:i><z:£SSEo wci>B<i.i:> asj 

took industry rhetoric at face value, and 
argued that biotechnology can't lead us 
to a new, sustainable agriculture, and 
that by "siphoning off scientific talent 
into genetics rather than ecology, I think 
it's actually going to make it harder for 
us to get to where we ought to go." She's 
right, but this is only the beginning of 
what could be said if there really were 
free speech. Her plea to directly pursue 
specific goals (like sustainable agricul- 
ture) rather than fixating on high-tech 
approaches to those goals (like biotech- 
nology as a possible contributor to 
sustainable agriculture) is a soft, safe way 
of saying that we should be making 
social choices and then developing tech- 
nologies to help us along the road to 
those choices. True, of course, but the 
matter is altogether too important to be 
left in such abstract terms. 

There's little hope without a reversal 
of the ecological crisis, and little chance 
of such a reversal in the First World 
alone. Sustainability means nothing un- 
less it applies to the Third World, where 
populations are booming and ecosystems 
ravaged by hungry peasants and slum- 
dwellers turned pioneers. And in the 
very concrete social world of Third- 
World poverty there's no hope for 
sustainability without land reform on a 
grand scale. Massive cash-crop planta- 
tions must be broken up into small 
holdings where peasants can safely es- 
tablish themselves. This is the forbidden 
truth behind the rhetoric of "sustain- 
ability," the truth that will never be 
discovered while the conversation re- 
mains locked in technoscientific 
frameworks. Here, as everywhere, if you 
want the truth — the social truth that 
shapes the scientific truth more deeply 
than most scientists imagine — you have 
to follow the money. 

In the real world, controlled by the 
planetary corporations and constantly 
reshaped to their benefit, biotechnology 
will have a starkly negative effect on 
Third World peasants — just the oppo- 
site of a radical land-reform program 
that had nothing at all to do with 
biotechnology. The future is already 
visible in research now focused on coffee, 
chocolate, sugar, vanilla and other "cash 
crops," research aimed at developing 
bioengineered substitutes for such tradi- 
tional agricultural products. Most such 
substitutes are still very experimental, 
but even in the short term biotech can 
be expected to accelerate the shift from 
small farms to large-scale plantations by 
promoting techniques that smallholders 

Is there any alternative 
in a debate defined on 

one side by reductionists 

like Rifkin who argue that 
biotech violates some 

essential sanctity of life, 
and on the other by an 
industry PR apparatus 
that seeks to frame biO' 

technology as high-tech 
beer making? 

cannot afford — like machine-harvesting 
techniques based on bioengineered hy- 
brids that all ripen in perfect, machine- 
like unison. In this, biotechnology's 
impact in the Third World is likely to be 
similar to the effect it will have here at 
home. BGH, for example, will increase 
the costs of doing business as a dairy 
farmer, thereby promoting larger herds 
and concentration of ownership. 

The "potential" of a technology must 
be clearly distinguished from its likely 
applications, and science cannot be 
abstracted from either social context or 
technological form. The Human Ge- 
nome Project is a fine example — it is a 
frightening development, but not be- 
cause it reduces life to "information," as 
a die-hard Rifkinite might argue. It is, 
rather, frightening in its promise to 
further increase the power and hege- 
mony of today's reductionist medical 
establishment. And this is true despite 
the fact that real improvements in 
therapy and healing, as well as some 
amazing science, can be expected to flow 
from it. 


The original Luddites were skilled 
artisans who smashed the automated 
looms of the encroaching factory system 
—not because they hated machines, but 
because they knew no better way to fight 
for their way of life. They were heroes, 
but the day was not theirs. They were 

learn, and as soon as possible. The 
passions that fuel refusal are one thing, 
but the conclusion that refusal — of 
compromise, complexity or technology 
— is the only basis for radicalism is quite 
another. There is no future in a politics 
defined by the rejection o( advanced 
technology. If simple living is the only 
way, then there is no hope at all. The 
really radical Luddism knows this, and 
sees the tragedies of our time as results 
not of "technology over the invisible line" 
but of the social institutions that shape 
both our lives and our machines. A 
truly radical technopolitics would quick- 
ly put "technology" aside in favor of 
more immediate social notions like 
"capitalism" and "democracy." What is 
needed is a democracy deep enough to 
function even at the level at which 
the machines are shaped — from the uses 
to which those machines are applied to 
their design and construction and use, 
all the way down the pipeline. 

The questions are legion. Why does 
technology always seem to betray its 
promise? Why are alternate paths so 
often ignored? Who, to ask the primal 
political question, decides? These are the 
questions that define a truly radical 
Luddism. Who decides that agricultural 
biotech research will focus on the devel- 
opment of herbicide-resistant crops? 
Who decides that autos are to be the 
backbone of the U.S. transportation 
system? Who decides if RU-486, the 
French "abortion pill," is to be banned? 
Who decides that nuclear energy is the 
best answer to greenhouse warming? 
These are specific questions, and they 
yield specific answers — the best kind. 

—Tom Athanasiou 

Satanic taU 

It is a lesson today's Luddites should 



f*B<<I>C::ESSEl> WOfftl-C* 2t€» 


G £ M E RAT I O M X(cerpt) 








Small, cramped office 
workstations built of fabric- 
covered disassemblable wall 
partitions and inhabited by junior 
staff members. Named after 
the small preslaughter cubicles 
used by the cattle industry. 



eople are wary of Dag when meeting him for the first 
time, in the same visceral way prairie folk are wary of 
the flavor of seawater when tasting it for the first time at an 
ocean beach. "He has eyebrows," says Claire when describing 
him on the phone to one of her many sisters. 

Dag used to work in advertising 

(marketing, actually) and came to Cali- 
fornia from Toronto, Canada, a city 
that when I once visited gave the 
efficient, ordered feel of the Yellow Pages 
sprung to life in three dimensions, 
peppered with trees and veined with cold 

"I don't think I was a likable guy. I was 
actually one of those putzes you see 
driving a sports car down to the financial 
district every morning with the roof 
down and a baseball cap on his head, 
cocksure and pleased with how frisky 
and complete he looks. I was both thrilled 
and flattered and achieved no small 
thrill of power to think that most 
manufacturers of life-style accessories in 
the Western world considered me their 
most desirable target market. But at the 
slightest provocation I'd have been will- 
ing to apologize for my working life- 
how I work from eight till five in front of 
a sperm-dissolving VDT, performing 
abstract tasks that indirectly enslave the 
Third World. But then, hey! Come five 
o'clock, I'd go nuts! I'd streak my hair 
and drink beer brewed in Kenya. I'd 
wear bow ties and listen to alternative 
rock and slum in the arty part of town." 

Anyhow, the story of why Dag came 
to Palm Springs runs through my brain 
at the moment, so I will continue here 
with a reconstruction built of Dag's own 
words, gleaned over the past year of slow 
nights tending bar. I begin at the point 
where he once told me how he was at 
work and suffering from a case of "Sick 
Building Syndrome," saying, "The win- 
dows in the office building where I 
worked didn't open that morning, and I 
was sitting in my cubicle, affectionately 
named the veal-fattening pen. I was 
getting sicker and more headachey by 
the minute as the airborne stew of office 
toxins and viruses recirculated — around 
and around — in the fans. 

"Of course these poison winds were 
eddying in my area in particular, aided 

by the hum of the white noise machine 
and the glow of the VDT screens. I 
wasn't getting much done, and was 
staring at my IBM clone surrounded by a 
sea of Post-it Notes, rock band posters 
ripped off of construction site hoarding 
boards, and a small sepia photo of a 
wooden whaling ship, crushed in the 
Antarctic ice, that I once found in an old 
'National Geographic. I had placed this 
photo behind a little gold frame I bought 
in Chinatown. I would stare at this 
picture constantly, never quite able to 
imagine the cold, lonely despair that 
people who are genuinely trapped must 
feel— in the process think better of my 
own plight in life. 

"I just don't understand 

you young people. No 

workplace is ever okay 

enough. And you mope 

and complain about how 

uncreative your jobs are . , ." 

"Anyhow, I wasn't going to produce 
much, and to be honest, I had decided 
that morning that it was very hard to see 
myself doing the same job two years 
down the road. The thought of it was 
laughable; depressing. So I was being a bit 
more lax than normal in my behavior. It 
felt nice. It was pre-quitting elation. I've 
had it a few times now. 

"Karen and Jamie, the VDT Vixens 
who worked in the veal-fattening pens 
next to me (we called our area the junior 
stockyard or the junior ghetto, alter- 
nately) weren't feeling well or producing 
much, either. As I remember, Karen was 
spooked about the Sick Building busi- 
ness more than any of us. She had her 

f»R.<:xz^ESSEo >>v<:l»k.i-o 2ts 

sister, who worked as an X-ray techni- 
cian in Montreal, give her a lead apron, 
which she wore to protect her ovaries 
when she was doing her keyboarding 
work. She was going to quit soon to 
pii k lip work a^ a temp: 'More freedom 
that way — easier to date the bicycle 

"Anyway, I remember I was working 
on a hamburger franchise campaign, the 
big goal of which, according to my 
embittered ex-hippie boss, Martin, was 
to 'get the little monsters so excited 
about eating a burger that they want to 
vomit with excitement.' Martin was a 
forty-year-old man saying this. Doubts 
I'd been having about my work for 
months were weighing on my mind. 

"As luck would have it, that was the 
morning the public health inspector 
came around in response to a phone call 
I'd made earlier that week, questioning 
the quality of the working environment. 

"Martin was horrified that an employ- 
ee had called the inspectors, and I mean 
really freaked out. In Toronto they can 
force you to make architectural changes, 
and alterations are ferociously expen- 
sive — fresh air ducts and the like — and 
health of the office workers be damned, 
cash signs were dinging up in Martin's 
eyes, tens of thousands of dollars' worth. 
He called me into his office and started 
screaming at me, his teeny-weeny salt 
and pepper ponytail bobbing up and 
down, 'I just don't understand you 
young people. No workplace is ever okay 
enough. And you mope and complain 
about how uncreative your jobs are and 
how you're getting nowhere, and so 
when we finally give you a promotion 
you leave and go pick grapes in Queens- 
land or some other such nonsense.' 

"Now, Martin, like most embittered 
ex-hippies, is a yuppie, and I have no 
idea how you're supposed to relate to 
those people. And before you start 
getting shrill and saying yuppies don't 
exist, let's just face facts: they do. 
Dickoids like Martin who snap like 
wolverines on speed when they can't 
have a restaurant's window seat in the 
noiisniokini; section witli tloth napkins. 
Androids who never get jokes and who 
have something scared and mean at the 
core of their existence, like an underfed 
Chihuahua baring its teeny fangs and 
waiting to have its face kicked in or like a 
glass of milk sloshed on top of the violet 
filaments of a bug-barbecue: a weird 
abuse of nature. Yuppies never gamble, 
they calculate. They have no aura: ever 
been to a yuppie party? It's like being in 

an empty room: empty hologram people 
walking around peeking at themselves in 
mirrors and surreptitiously misting their 
tonsils with Binaca spray, just in case 
they have to kiss another ghost like 
themselves. There's just nothing there.. 

"So, 'Hey Martin,' I asked when I go to 
his office, a plus James Bond number 
overlooking the downtown core— he's 
sitting there wearing a computer- 
generated purple sweater from Korea — a 
shirt with lots of texture. Martin likes 
texture. 'Put yourself in my shoes. Do 
you really think we enjoy having to work 
in that toxic waste dump in there?' 

"Uncontrollable urges were overtaking 

'". . .and then have to watch you chat 
with your yuppie buddies about your 
gut-liposuction all day while you secrete 
artificially sweetened royal jelly here in 

"Suddenly I was into this tres deeply. 
Well, if I'm going to quit anyway, might 
as well get a thing or two off my chest. 

"'I beg your pardon,' says Martin, the 
wind taken out of his sails. 

"'Or for that matter, do you really 
think we enjoy hearing about your brand 
new million-dollar home when we can 
barely afford to eat Kraft Dinner sand- 
wiches in our own grimy little shoe boxes 
and we're pushing thirty? A home you 
won in a genetic lottery, I might add, 
sheerly by dint of your having been born 
at the right time in history? You'd last 
about ten minutes if you were my age 
these days, Martin. And I have to 
endure pinheads like you rusting above 
me for the rest of my life, always 
grabbing the best piece of cake first and 
then putting a barbed-wire fence around 
the rest. You really make me sick.' 

"Unfortunately the phone rang then, 
so I missed what would have undoubt- 
cJI\' Wx-n a feebk- retort . . sonu- luL;hcT- 
up Martin was m tlu- miLlJIc of a 
bum-kissing campaign with and who 
couldn't be shaken off the line. I daw- 
dled off into the staff cafeteria. There, a 
salesman from the copy machine com- 
pany was pouring a styrofoam cup full of 
scalding hot coffee into the soil around a 
ficus tree which really hadn't even 
recovered yet from having been fed 
cocktails and cigarette butts from the 
Christmas party. It was pissing rain 
outside, and the water was drizzling 
down the windows, but inside the air 
was as dry as the Sahara from being 
recirculated. The staff were all bitching 
about commuting time and making 
AIDS jokes, labeling the office's fashion 

victims, sneezing, discussing their horos- 
copes, planning their time-share in San- 
to Domingo, and slagging the rich and 
famous. I felt cynical, and the room 
matched my mood. At the coffee ma- 
chine next to the sink, I grabbed a cup, 
while Margaret, who worked at the 
other end of the office, was waiting for 
her herbal tea to steep and informing me 
ot the ramifications of mv letting off 
steam a few minutes earlier. 

"'What did you just say to Martin, 
Dag?' she says to me. 'He's just having 
kittens in his office — cursing your name 
up and down. Did the health inspector 
declare this place a Bhopal or some- 

— © i99i Douglas Coupland 

Thanks to Doug and St. Martin's Press 
for permission to print this excerpt from the 
1991 book GENERATION X. See the re- 
vieu.1 on page 53. 

BURST: The bottling up of 
opinions and emotions inside 
onself so that they explosively 
burst forth all at once, shocking 
and confusing employers and 
friends — most of whom thought 
things were fine. 


An elderly sold-out baby boomer 
who pines for hippie or pre- 
sellout days. 

material wealth and long-range 
material security accrued by 
older members of the baby boom 
generation by virtue of 
fortunate births. 


The need of one generation to 
see the generation following it 
as deficient so as to bolster 
its own collective ego: "Kids 
today do nothing. They're so 
apathetic. We used to go out 
and protest. All they do is shop 
and complain. " 

TERRORISM: The process 

that decides in-of fice attitudes 
and behavior. 

t»B<.n>CIESSEO WOR.1.0 :^s 



PW: You were born in Brazil and went to Switzerland in 1964, 
when you were 16. How old were you when you got interested in 

MARCO SCHWARZSTEIN: Somehow, I was never interested in 
genetics [laughs]. 1 always wondered what natural science was about, 
because I was more motivated by social science or something like that. 
But it was like a black spot, I couldn't understand how they could draw 
conclusions . . . that they could pretend to be telling How Things Are. 

After the '68 movement there came MS: No, not at all! I've always 

quite a depression among militants. We mistrusted this thing; I never had the 

didn't know what we were going to do. I 
had this kind of nervous breakdown. 
After one and a half years, I could finally 
walk and talk again. To help my recovery, 
I decided on a lark to begin studying bio- 
chemistry because it had something to 
do with life, and I was fascinated with 
this double helix, this DNA. That was 
my main motivation. 

I studied in Zurich. Around 1974 or 
'75 the first primitive genetic engineering 
work was being done. It was a good 
moment because genetic engineering 
breakthroughs were really beginning. 
When I was finishing my studies in 1979, 
the major breakthrough was coming. 
Small biotech companies began to de- 

At that time this discussion was going 
on about ethical issues, which was quite 
exceptional. A lot of people were afraid 
of what they were doing. With time they 
became less afraid. At the [1975] Asilo- 
mar conference there was some concern 
that these experiments could be danger- 
ous. What would happen with these new 
bacteria that would have this new 
genetic information in them? They were 
using what they called "disabled" bacte- 
ria, but E. coli bacteria live in human 
intestines, so there was concern. Some 
scientists were warning people, but hav- 
ing been there at the time, I realize that 
this concern just diminished. It seems 
that nothing very serious ever happened, 
no accident, not yet, so ethical discus- 
sions almost disappeared. 

PW: Were you motivated by desires 
to improve humanity? 

feeling that science would solve any kind 
of problems. On the contrary— I always 
had the feeling that it was creating a lot 
of problems. Scientific ideology never 
impressed me a lot. 

The work itself is quite fascinating. In 
genetic engineering there is strong pres- 
sure to get results, and molecular biology 

It sounds fine doing 

research for a third 

world country. But you 

are fighting against the 

whole structure of these 

state companies, which 

are research companies 

hut also political entities. 

gives you results. Everyday I would get 
some small results. The experiments run 
relatively quickly. The whole project can 
go on for years, but everyday you can 
reach a milestone. 

At the University I went for a Master's 
Degree. I learned DNA sequencing. It's 
just a technique. Nowadays they have 
machines to do that, but at that time 
you had to do it manually. It was 
fascinating just to be able to read this 
thing with very small amounts of mate- 
rial. What I didn't like very much was 
working with radioactivity. I had some 
luck because the lab I was in won this 
race to produce interferon through 

cloning. It was 1980 and there were some 
big labs trying to be the first . . . 

PW: Were you getting money from 
pharmaceutical companies? 

MS: Biogene, where I worked, was 
basically a university lab moved off 
campus. We had some investment from 
Roche, and we were competing with 
Genentech to clone interferon first. 
That began the entrance of biotech 
capital into the university labs. And 
when they got the clone, they needed to 
sequence it very quickly, and I was the 
one person there who could do it. That's 
when I began to be paid by Biogene. It 
was very interesting to see how things 
were organized and how they began to 
use our work for propaganda, for raising 
the image of this biotech company. 
Interferon was presented as a cure for 
cancer, for everything. It's strange be- 
cause I was always saying that this stuff 
wouldn't work, it would be no good at 
all. [laughs]. 

I was deeply mistrustful about these 
supposed "marvelous results," which 
turned out to be true and false. It's not a 
special breakthrough, it's a drug like any 
other. But if I get cancer, I'm gonna have 
to buy it, which bothers me. 

PW: That's the perfect picture: 
invent something in your youth that 
saves you in old age! 

MS: Yes, after working in the lab with 
radioactivity, I have a good chance! 

Before I left Europe in 1984 I did some 
stints at a European plant's molecular bi- 
ology labs, where I was again witness to a 
major breakthrough. This was the first 
time they introduced a foreign gene into 
a plant, which then expressed it. That 
was in Belgium. I arrived 4 months after 
that happened, and it was still going on. 

Anyway, I wanted to go back to Brazil. 
I heard about a Swiss guy who was 
opening a molecular biology lab there. It 
was a way of going back and having a 
salary. I knew I would need some time to 
get adapted again. I worked about five 
years in this lab. That was quite a 



iEI> w« 

>K.I.E> 2tSJ 

Marco Schwarzstein (2nd from right) celebrating the first isolation of interferon with 
his lab mates (photo from LIFE magazine. May 1980, vol. 3 #5). 

difficult and frustrating experience, both 
for the [scientific] results, but also on a 
personal level. Not because I couldn't 
adapt to Brazil, but I couldn't adapt very 
well to the conditions under which they 
work, which are quite difficult. You 
don't have [chemical] reagents, you have 
to fight bureaucracy, you have to be a 
good politician. You are surrounded by 
people who know very little. 

It's very important to be hopeful in 
this business, especially in Brazil. You 
really have to be a believer. You are 
playing against all odds, but that doesn't 
matter. They believe in miracles. To be a 
scientist in Brazil you have to be quite 
idealistic. I have some friends who try 
and fight but it's very harsh. If you are 
trying to keep pace with the latest 
developments in, let's say, gene technol- 
ogy, it's almost impossible. At the same 
time one has to do that — you get money 
for that, you get sustained by that. I 
worked at a Brazilian state research 

PW: That was EMBRAPA? 

MS: Yes, the agricultural ministry. 
Somebody in the bureaucracy made the 
decision to open a biotech lab. We had 
this funny, strange project which was to 
put the gene from the Brazil nut, which is 
very rich in sulfur, into Brazilian beans. 
We were in competition with an Ameri- 
can company that was also trying to 
isolate this Brazil nut gene. It was as 
difficult for them as it was for us. 

PW: They want to get sulfur into 
the bean? Why? 

MS: Because it is an amino acid which 
is "missing." What's wrong with the 
bean not having sulfur? [laughs] It's a 
strange story because I never heard of a 
sulfur-deficiency illness. Nobody is get- 
ting ill because they are not getting 
enough sulfur. I thought it was a good 
idea, because you got money for doing it, 
and a lab, and you got to put a team 

together. It sounded reasonable that in a 
third world country like Brazil we should 
have people working in molecular biolo- 
gy. After all, Brazil is going to be a big 
market for these products. So if nobody 
understands this shit, people are going to 
spend money on the wrong things. 

For example, in the construction of 
this lab a lot of mistakes were made. 
Somebody gets one or two million 
dollars to buy machines, like an amino 
acid analyzer or a protein sequencing 
machine, and then Beckman, say, sells 
machines which are impossible to use. 
They sell them for 60-70,000 bucks, 
machines which are already almost ob- 
solete in the U.S. We got two or three 
white elephants there that no one can 
use. The incompetence of the people 
who chose the machines and the bad 
faith by Beckman reinforced each other. 
Beckman didn't help at all with the 
problems that arose with their machines. 
This happens all the time. 

There are machines which require lots 
of expensive chemicals, and you can't get 
the chemicals. Without technical sup- 
port you are fucked up. They had a guy 
there who tried hard, but it never 
worked and it was very frustrating. It 
seems that that's the way one must 
learn. You have to spend lots of money 
on the wrong things to learn how not to 
do it, but then how do you break this 

We made a deal with this Belgian 
company. It was a three year contract 
which cost our Brazilian company about 
one million dollars. To get reagents we 
had to spend much more than they cost. 
It was a very expensive trick to avoid the 
import bureaucracy. 

It sounds fine doing research for a 
third world country, fighting to keep up. 
But you are fighting against the whole 
structure of these state companies. They 
are run politically. They are research 
companies but they are also political 

entities. That's the problem! They are 
not profit-oriented. Their orientation is 
just to survive to keep power. Now 
they're just living on taxes. EMBRAPA 
is very prestigious in Brazil. It's known 
for success in agricultural research. I 
doubt that they've really been so suc- 
cessful since they've mostly been sup- 
porting big monoculture techniques. 
There are always some islands, some 
guys working on alternative techniques, 
but the main thing is monoculture: corn, 
soya, oranges, sugar. They are fantastic 
on public relations, so they've convinced 
me they're really great! [laughs] 

When the economic crisis came they 
began to cut expenses and personnel 
costs, so my salary went down to a third 
of what it started at. It was absolutely 
ridiculous to go on working like that. 
Because of this high inflation rate, if 
salaries are not readjusted at least every 
three months, you lose. So I wasn't 
getting readjusted, and neither were a lot 
of people in EMBRAPA. During the last 
two years I wasn't showing up very 

PW: Did your research just die out? 

MS: We did have some success. We 
did the work down there and the results 
were published by the Belgian company, 
although the American company almost 
published first. It's very difficult to 
transform beans [genetically]. So the 
problem was not getting the gene (that 
took about four or five years) but in 
transforming beans with that gene. We 
could put it in tobacco, but no one is 
going to eat tobacco! 

— interview by Chris Carhson 

f*fftO<i:ESSEt> W<I>8<1_I> ^Q 




re you waiting for me to tell 
>you to sit down?" The shades 
shadow lines against her forearm. Moon 
must be nearing fullness. "You're still 

The man breathes deeply in, loudly out. 
His breath rises above and over the air 
between his soles and the barstool. He 
could take off at this second, take off 
back over the boats along the marina 
behind the restaurant. He could start 
flapping his arms with that breath and 
sail even further. But he doesn't. He 
stiffens. His eyes are tired and brown. 

He tells us about the dream: elms topped 
with copper hair like seahorses. In the 
background are mills. Puffed from a 
millstack are slow dancers bending ashy 
arms out of sooty silk veils. "They were 
beautiful," he confesses. "Their arms 
were open, aching." "You don't like that 
they seemed beautiful?" I ask. "No! Not 
the elms, the dancer's arms!" "Oh!" we 
sigh, pretending to follow his story. He 
thinks we lose control so he turns from 
us, bends to tie a shoe, looks back so far 
his eyes cross. "1 have to go now," he 
says. "I'm late for work." His barnap 
wraps the last moist chill of the mug in 
indentations his fingersize, cradling the 
oblong glass, slobbery, slipping from its 

When the window cleaner raises his arm 
to scrape the top layer of dust, his 
forearm rubs against the glass. In this 
bar, there are nothing but windows and 
men with beige suits holding on for dear 

You pour and a voice comes from the 
bottle, impersonal and predictably 
sweet. "What can I get for you? What 
can I do?" And you say to the voice, 
obviously you: "I don't think I want to 
hear this." There's a distant click of 
glasses. The voice says: "There will be a 
toast in your honor and tips for you and 
smiles through and through." And you 
say Yes and turn your back away 
because you want to sleep. The waves of 
a lisped voice reaches across to you: "I'm 
sure you've heard this all before." 

On mornings the rain came and stayed 
for four days, the kitchen floor filled up 
with food resin from the walk-in box 
where the drain would overflow and lose 
control. We'd place large mayonnaise 
buckets in various places where we 
thought the leaks were. It never worked. 
We spent more time pushing around 
buckets until our knees were stained 
from crouching down to scoop up slime. 
When the rain came, we knew one of us 
would, by the end of the night, owe the 

S:S;£1> WCL»K.I.11» ^3 

Reprimand Jar some quarters. Each 
check on the Reprimand Sheet was 
worth a quarter. It was created to keep 
us all on top of our employment duties: 
proper dress, proper conduct, proper use 
of time. At the end of a month, the 
money would go to a staff party, and the 
employee who paid out the most re- 
ceived a series of warnings eventually 
leading to his/her dismissal. This meant 
that every time someone got fired, we 
had a party. On days the rain comes, the 
bar fills up by noon. As the others 
prepare the buckets, I make extra Bloody 
Mary mix with handfuls of celery salt 
and thyme. Worcestershire separates to 
the jug's top layer and twirls into brown 
spirals before anyone even orders any. 

By the end of the day, we throw buckets 
of water on the bar floor to loosen 
tomato juice from down under cracks. 

"Ship's in tomorrow, girls!" The mana- 
ger calls the staff the night before any 
ship is due to dock after months in the 
middle of an ocean. We know then not 
to wear short skirts unless we're desper- 
ate for money. Once, Sue thought she'd 
fake them out and wore her husband's 

painting overalls, a spotted white jump- 
suit with slabs of paint dripped unevenly 
down the front, baggy and stretched just 
above the back of her knees. It didn't 
work. The boys thought it was cute. 
Thought she was sexy, trying to relate to 
them somehow. She made $175 by 
midnight. Her shift starts at eight. 

One part gin. One part a mixture of dark, 
light, and spiced rum. One part pineapple. 
One part soda water. A dash of creme de 
menthe. A dash of creme de cacao. Mix 
vigorously. Strain. Top with 151. Garnish 
with cherry and orange slice. 

"Anything in a green bottle. I don't care 
what it is. Just anything in a green 
bottle. And nothing foreign. Got it 
straight? Nothing foreign." 

Mary likes her Bloodys spicy so her 
tongue and inner cheeks numb. Saves 
the thin red cocktail straw for trips to 
the bathroom. She ages rapidly. The 
lack of sleep and cigarettes are making 
marks around her face. Faint lines aim to 
create ovals that begin from her nostrils 
veering down over each side of her 
mouth. She's got secrets, she tells the 
others at the bar, then says once she 
slept with a woman in her youth as 

though she robbed a bank and threw the 
money in the bay. She goes to the 
bathroom every twenty minutes or so. 
Her drink dilutes, grows pink. She 
returns and orders another, fresh. 

When the band's on break, they bring 
the bartenders to the walk-in and cut 
out three lines for each. They share a few 
beers, then mark them as comps on the 
nightly inventory sheet. They check 
each other's noses as they return with 
six-packs to stock the cooler for the rest 
of the night. From there on, the clock 

The Last Call Bell was brass and two 
and a half feet tall. It hung, always, 
above my left-side head, near the cash 
register and variously-flavored schnapps. 

She's one of those people who pride 
themselves on their ability to make a 
decision and carry it out. This virtue, 
like most virtues, is ambiguity itself. 
People who believe that they are strong- 
willed and the masters of their destiny 
can only continue to believe this by 
becoming specialists in self-deception. 
Their decisions aren't really decisions. A 
real decision makes one humble, one 
knows that it is at the mercy of more 
things than can be named. Decisions are 
elaborate systems of illusion for her, 
designed to make her and the world 
appear to be what she and the world are 

f»B«.CI>CIE£;SEC* WOR.l_I> 2:3 


He was an old man who drank Stoli 
straight up, chilled, with a twist of 
lemon. He was born with only thumbs 
and small nubs of bone where the fingers 
were supposed to be; his hands were like 
tiny tree stumps. His lips were dry and 
cankered, his eyes blue and green with 
brown-tan outlines. His elephant ears 
which rubbed up against wrestling mats 
in his youth, now protruded in her 
peripheral view. He watches her mix his 
order. Watches her arm arch bottle over 
tumbler with ice as he stares at her as 
though sketching her portrait. She 
strains the chilled brew into a rocks glass 
and rubs a lemon rind around the lips 
before dropping it into the liquid. He 
rarely talks except to order, explain his 
ears, or tell how to mix the martini. 
Watching her hands and fingers master 
the tilt of the tumbler and the twist of 
the rind, he pays her with a fifty for four, 
leaving always the same tip: more with 
the ice, and less with the hands. 

Sully says not to look for anything 
profound in my daily explorations 
through mixology. He reaches into his 
back pocket, pulls up a tiny rubber ball, 
and begins to squeeze it. "It's like money. 
You can't think about it too much. It 
can't control you, or it loses all power to 
benefit you." He asks me to smile as he 
stands to leave. I smile. He places a fifty 
beneath his barnap, smiles back, turns, 
then leaves. 

"Always pay attention to the same sex 
customer when waiting on a couple. If 
you're a woman, talk with the woman, 
and a waiter should address the man. 
Never give the partner reason for jealou- 
sy. Get her/him on your side so she/he 
persuades their partner to tip you nice- 
ly." "A nice tip is one which demon- 
strates to the waitperson that she/he has 
demonstrated to the customer(s) that 
their demonstration of service satisfied 
their palates, their stomachs, and their 
overall idea of human interaction." 

Each time he sat at the bar, he asked 
when I would settle down. "Why hasn't 
a girl like you become hitched yet? When 
ya gonna settle down?" And whenever 
he said that I saw the sediment at the 
bottom of a stagnant pond. Every time 
he asked, I had the feeling that he and 
his buddies were taking bets on me. 
They were like priests of a strange holy 
order, watching me to discover by means 
of gestures I made (which only they 
could read) whether or not I had a true 

WORK NIGHTMARE #86: One night I 
dream the bottles are not just covered in 
dust, but full of black soot caused by the 
railroad workers from the night shift. I 
dream they each carry in their lung, and 
place it on the bar like a lover or 
drinking pal. They dust them off be- 
tween sips. I'm confused. I don't know 
who to pay attention to this time. After 
a few rounds of bourbon and sevens and 
Coors Lites, they grow attractive. I take 
one home with me. His eyes are blue like 
creeks covered over by dry branches. He 
brings his lung, black and rough with 
calloused entrails. He places it on the 
night stand next to us. I don't come for 
him — instead vomit. It's what he wants 
me to do. He falls asleep. I patient the 
night for sunrise with wide eyes while the 
lung breathes mucused dreams in my 
right ear. 

To hold small objects in the palm of the 
hand, glass, delicate objects, to break 
and listen. Sharp notes, angelic and high 
as if the greens of the leaves soar toward 
the sky in an effort for redness. 

I drop glasses easily. They demand 
drinks so quickly I can't concentrate on 
the money flow, so I concentrate on the 
demand. My hips can't move to the 
music anymore. I just move automati- 
cally, until I rinse some glasses and hang 
them above my head in haste. They 
collide together, they shake then break 
over a row of heads. No one is hurt. $85 
is taken from my pay for a case of glasses. 
My tips decrease for two weeks until the 
regulars realize I don't shatter glass on 

Now it's time to move, I think, and I 
move. I'm being paid for this. They've 
raised me to crave such redundancy. 

Such are my bodily needs: each thought 
goes into my clothes. My sixth pair of 
black pants are ironed, the white button 
down shirt cleansed of ketchup stains. 
Everything goes into my clothes al- 
though it isn't noticeable to others. I 
could be fired for not getting out that 
stain from the ninth white shirt in my 
wooden closet. They could fire me for 
not standing over my sink all day 
rubbing the stain from the cloth. They 
could fire me if they read my thoughts as 
my hands go up and down over the spot 
until only a faint outline of pale pink is 
visible up close. I have thoughts of 
pushing the clock forward, and I do, 
push the clock forward, but still last call 
rarely comes soon enough. They could 
fire me if they knew I was thinking off 
the job. 

I'm too serious and not serious enough 
to take this seriousness seriously enough. 

He doesn't like me, that new manager. 
Thinks I laugh too much. 

Sully says you can't take them all so 
seriously. He reaches into his side pocket 
and brings up a sack of tobacco, rolls a 
cigarette, bites the end, and lights it. "It's 
like sex, ya know. You can't think about 
it too much, it can't be regulated, or it 
loses all power to dissolve your being 
into complete breakdown and orgasm." 

Mash cherry with sugar in rocks glass. Add 
ce. In separate tumbler, mix scotch and 
iweet vermouth. Shake. Drain contents over 
ice with cherry and sugar. Garnish with 
orange or lime and cherry with toothpick. 

We are as the next person to leave us. A 
religion that allows us only sense enough 
to understand the last word in any 
conversation. Is there some glory in 
adapting the brain to a national idiocy: 
to replace the eyes with masks? To paint 
on smiles or expressions of interest? But 
when one isn't looking for glory in life 
can the face easily be splashed with cool 
water? (Too many questions, girl, too 
many questions. Just smile. I am smiling, 
on the inside. Just drink your beer, man, 
and mind your own business. Can't you 
see I'm thinking?) 

The color of my hair as I ring the black 
out to go white. Here, I float along in 
moods behind bars, back there where 
my legs don't matter, where my arms 
perform mimical utterances of stifled 
thought. Where the smoke comforts 
corners. Where the mirrors behind me 
reflect no one but myself, and when I 
take second looks, I'm gone. It is land- 
scape lacking here. Depth and the open 
security of nothingness, and everything's 
in front of me, constantly. But eyes 
themselves do something different. They 
ask for pleasing things inside the bottle, 
inside the habitual faces. They can't 
detect the life. 

To the beauty of the drunk at my feet; to 
the cry of the cat at my feet as I walk on 
top of him. (What are we toasting to 
now? To anything, girl. Just keep toast- 
ing.) To shy and strong friends. To three 
more hours in a day. To the imagina- 
tion. To the cry of the tires sound and 
the word we give to rubber, outside the 
valley where the Mack trucks strut from 
lane to lane. To the CB vocals adrift 
above the car roof out over the highway. 
Come in Big Buddy. Come in Big 
Buddy. Come in. 10-4. We need another 
language. I need a new job. 

—Marina Lazzara 


f*R.OCIESSEl> W<=>R.U:> 2tSJ 



he ad offered a job as an entry-level paralegal starting at 
$7.50 an hour for a "P.l." I immediately began imagining 
myself accepting the low wage in exchange for being able to per- 
form socially beneficial work. Then, too, I desperately needed 
some income, having recently returned from a mandatory vacation 
in the Los Angeles County Jail only to go through two months of 
near homelessness. But I soon learned that "P.I." stood for personal 
injury — a practice quite antagonistic to my notion of the public 

Once the boss, James M. Rogers, Esq., 
reviewed my answers to some sample 
questions for the LSAT test and decided 
to hire me on the spot, and once I had 
calculated that the pay was barely ade- 
quate for food and shelter in the rat- 
infested warehouse I called home, there 
was no looking back. 

It was not what I expected from a job 
in the legal profession. During the 
interview Jim went over an employment 
agreement that detailed the paralegal 
compensation system he hoped to im- 
plement. I could tell from the contract 
that "pay-per-client" was an incredibly 
complicated piecework system incom- 
prehensible to anyone without consider- 
able experience working in Jim's office. 
Jim admitted that his paralegals had 
reservations about the plan, and he 
invited me to hear their side before 
accepting the position. 

I was introduced to Phyllis, a fairly 
senior paralegal, who cornered me at the 
first possible moment with a blunt 
"Don't sign it." But because I needed 
money badly, I agreed to accept the 
position provisionally for $7.50 an hour 
(out of which I was required to pay $100 
per month for health insurance) until I 
became familiar enough with my job to 
understand the new system. 

I started work the next morning, 
meeting Kelli, my supervisor, and short- 
ly thereafter, Aryah, the president of the 
firm's new paralegal union. This aston- 
ishing revelation immediately signaled 
something was amiss in paradise: parale- 
gals are generally a fairly well-paid and 

respected group whose loyalty and dili- 
gence are ensured by good pay, benefits, 
advancement, and prestige. But here 
they had chosen to band together like 
coal miners. 

Equally striking was having to punch a 
time clock, something I had never even 
heard of in a world where disciplined 
attendance is presumed to follow from 
the sheer pleasure of working in such a 
genteel and rarefied atmosphere. 

Jim seemed reluctant to 

represent minorsy because 

his fees were limited to 

25 percent by law, and 

because minors usually 

healed quickly and with' 

out the orthopedic com^ 

plications that justify 

prolonged, expensive 


Despite nagging reservations fueled by 
the continuous griping of my new co- 
wqrkers and Aryah ("After taxes your 
pay comes to $900 a month. Can you 
live on that?"), I plunged into my job 
with the help of a xeroxed manual and a 
few dozen case files Jim handed me. To 
my surprise, there was virtually no 
training. Suddenly I was responsible for 
handling forty or fifty personal injury 

lawsuits. I didn't panic, for I had learned 
that nothing happens very quickly in the 
law, but I was bewildered about where to 

My supervisor flagged the case folders 
that needed prompt attention, but 
didn't mention that these instructions 
were for me rather than my predecessor. 
So I engrossed myself in absorbing some 
of the seventy-plus single-spaced pages in 
the manual. Fortunately, if you ignore 
personal injury cases long enough, 
someone will get in touch with you and 
clue you in on how to proceed, particu- 
larly the clients, who are endlessly 
curious and impatient for settlement 

As I learned more about the incredibly 
complicated and stressful task I had 
assumed, I also got an education in the 
incredible insensitivity and avarice un- 
derlying a business that converts peo- 
ple's misfortune, ignorance, and help- 
lessness into easy and plentiful cash. 

Mr. Rogers' firm advertises extensively 
as the "People's Lawyer," generating a 
large volume of clients. A people's 
paralegal conducts an initial interview 
over the phone to get the basic facts of 
the case, which boil down to whether 
the law firm can easily settle it for 
substantial money. The contingency fee 
requested is based on the effort required 
to bring the defendant's insurer to 
settlement: 33% for the easiest cases, 
45% for those requiring arbitration, a 
fast, out-of-court forum mutually agreed 
upon by the parties to avoid a trial's 
expense. Then Jim is notified so he can 
track who's working on what for how 

Problem cases are invariably turned 
down. Tough questions of liability, no 
insurance coverage, or a potential settle- 
ment too small to bother with are all 
disqualifications. Any case requiring an 
actual jury trial is rejected by policy. If 
insurance "burns out" or the client 
doesn't generate enough in medical bills, 
the case is "dumped" as soon as possible 
to avoid further expense and hassle. The 

f»R.OCIESSEI> WOfftl-O :aQ 


result is that the law firm never takes any 
case that doesn't practically guarantee a 
high return. 

This pursuit of sure pay-off leads to 
some embarrassing moments for the 
conscientious, who must inform clients 
that the People's Lawyer doesn't help 
uninsured people hit by uninsured driv- 
ers or people pitting their word against 
that of the wealthy or powerful. 

I received one call from a young black 
woman, who, along with her sister and 
infant daughter, was injured when a 
speeding Oakland Police car in hot 
pursuit of a suspect hit their car. The 
woman had changed lanes to allow one 
police car to pass when a second police 
car came speeding around a corner and 
struck her car from behind. A poor 
underdog wronged by the careless power 
of the arrogant state — and the police so 
obviously at fault! I could barely contain 
my excitement. But when I shared my 
good fortune with Jim, he was very 

concerned that the potential client 
lacked insurance and felt that the police 
would fabricate their report to exculpate 
themselves. He refused to let me send the 
woman a contract until we reviewed the 
police report. I sent the woman an 
authorization form for the report, but 
she never sent it back, so the file 

Months later, Jim wrote a note on the 
case folder asking why the contract 
hadn't been sent. I attributed his poor 
memory to indifference to the people 
involved in his cases beyond their po- 
tential to generate a fee. 

Reinforcing this suspicion, Jim seemed 
reluctant to represent minors, because 
his fees for taking their cases were limited 
to 25% by law, and because minors 
usually healed quickly and without the 
orthopedic complications that justify 
prolonged, expensive treatments. 

Once another woman called regarding 
her mother and daughter, who had both 

been struck by a car while crossing the 
street in front of City Hall. Jim wanted 
to take the grandma's case but not the 
kid's. I was expected to explain to this 
woman that her parent had a good case 
but her child didn't, although they were 
both injured at the same time in the 
same place in the same manner. Fortu- 
nately, the woman never called back. 

Despite Jim's reluctance to send con- 
tracts to the poor, oppressed, and unin- 
sured, he did put a number of doctors 
and chiropractors under contract to 
treat clients at no charge until the 
settlement came through. It was a mu- 
tually beneficial arrangement, guar- 
anteeing them a steady stream of pa- 
tients and helping us make good cases. 

Jim also arranged for reduction of 
clients' bills in case a settlement was 
smaller than expected, "so the client 
could at least recover something." In- 
stead, this fee reduction was used to 
recover attorneys' fees (usually one- 


•»«.0C:ESSE1> >#V08«.*.0 2t3 

Processed World's Attitude Adjustment Seminar^ August 31, 1991 

held at Klub Komotion, San Francisco 

third) from medical insurance settle- 

Such "med pay" comes from the 
client's own insurance company, and is 
intended to cover the client's medical 
expenses for the accident regardless of 
liability. It is usually paid promptly upon 
documentation. True to its name, med 
pay is expected to cover doctors' bills, 
while payment of the claim against the 
person liable for the accident usually 
takes care of the lawyers' bills. 

1 But I once found myself trying to get a 

doctor to take a 50% cut so Jim could 
collect one-third of a med pay check 
(some $1,100 or so) already promised to 
the client to pay still more medical bills. 
The doctor couldn't understand why the 
client needed more money, since the 
poor unfortunate had just won a $10,500 
liability settlement (and the law firm had 

I already pocketed a third of it). Jim had 
me dickering so the firm could get paid 
twice. Jim's policy put especially heavy 
emphasis on med pay. Eventually the 
doctor read between the lines and had to 
swallow Jim's cupidity or lose future 

Once a client dropped us after I had 
helped him get $8,700 in property dam- 
ages by browbeating the insurance ad- 
juster. This money couldn't even gener- 
ate fees for us, since the client settled his 

own property damage claim (according 
to the firm's policy), although I had to 
pave the way by out-arguing the adjuster 
first. I therefore expected the client's 

However, when I called the client to 
initiate a med pay claim from his auto 
insurance, he told me he hadn't filed an 
accident claim with his carrier and didn't 
want to because he was afraid of higher 

I was at a loss for words and told him 
I'd get back to him. I found out later that 
the manual instructs us to reassure the 
client that Proposition 103, California's 
Insurance Reform Initiative, outlawed 
such increases. 

This struck me as a little hollow, 
considering the problems the state has 
had enforcing the most basic provisions 
of that law. The client never heard the 
rationale, however, since the next week I 
received a letter from his new attorney. 

I find it very difficult to betray my 
strong instinct that money shouldn't 
govern one's sense of justice. So the 
longer I had to participate in this game, 
the less enthusiasm I had for my work. 

This was matched by my growing 
sense of oppression when faced with the 
insufficiency of my reward: rock-bottom 
pay, no paid holidays, no sick leave. 

Furthermore, my cases were always 
ridiculously screwed up. I attribute this 

to the incompetence or indifference of 
the previous paralegal and the chaos 
that reigned in an office full of surly 
intellectual drones lashed on by the whip 
of their employer's calculating greed. 

Employee morale was generally abys- 
mal, despite Jim's on-the-clock volleyball 
matches and the microwave popcorn, 
licorice, and English Toffees in the office 
kitchen. Jim allowed us to set our own 
hours, but time clock cheating was 
rampant. Also, there was virtually no 
dress code. 

I figured that such enlightened office 
policies were the carrot that kept many 
of us on the treadmill. I rarely had 
enough money to do my laundry, often 
going to work in what amounted to 
stinking rags compared to the attire of 
office workers in orthodox law firms a 
block away. One co-worker confided in 
me that she hoarded the microwave 
popcorn for emergency calories she oth- 
erwise couldn't afford, because for her 
the "pay per client" system amounted to 
subminimal wage — a situation she was 
forced to endure for free medical cover- 
age for a long-term health problem. 

The media has praised Jim Rogers for 
his contribution to his profession, 
and he's purported to spend all the 
surplus cash he can squeeze on some 
progressive political agenda. Jim certain- 
ly didn't spend the money on himself, 
often wearing cutoffs in the office and 
driving a battered little economy car. 

I do know of one employee who 
started after I did, opted for the much 
maligned "pay per client" system, and 
was making enough per hour to almost 
justify the stress of playing lawyer. I quit 
after four months. Aryah, the union 
president, quit the same week. Deborah, 
who made $13 an hour, a wage negotiat- 
ed before the onset of pay per client, got 
laid off, with low costs winning out over 
worker skill and loyalty by a mile in the 
race among Jim's priorities. 

— R.L. Tripp 


•<i:hss;ei> v»y<i>B<*.o 2t3 




Radio tunes scrape scales 

with cleaver pitches. There is 

a feeling which has no body 

and murmurs in front of me. 

I don't want to live in a cave. 

The most sluggish, lazy 

fish in the world 

is the monkeyfaced prickleback 

active five minutes 

a day when tide comes in. 

It gulps seaweed and digests 

fifty hours. Frustration 

defines patience. 

I am the sculptor 

who pulled lead from old bathroom 

floors, pounded it around himself 

and became too heavy to move. 

— Nathan Whiting 

which is the 
house of pain? 
I finally see 
where the 
fanged crazy 
man lives 
his teeth a 
mess of 
wolf poking 
over his upper 
lip, jawing now 
with the 
Chinese retarded woman 
as I go downtown 
hunting for work 
past the 

mansion of 
eyes — 
damaged minds 
staring blankly 
while my 
own mind 
races w/ 
the fear of 
no job 






— Alan Mendoza 

''I I P MVLf/^NW© \ 


f»R.O<l:HSSSO >/»•<!> B<1_I> 2fc3 


A lethal screen 

unbearable whiteness of war 

brings color to the cheeks 

we turn to the sun 

loading the clean magazine 

in desert scroll 

War Perfect cursors the new 

queer days brisk 

as the bureaucrat behind 

in his projections 

just signs 

the times are all there 

between incision and ecstasy 

falls the scythe 

harvesting a new generation 


lost in a slip of the tongue 

a slim disease 

the papercut eyes 

glare at the gas plasma 

skyline warming 

this world may end in a flicker 

or a breeze 

attraction receding 

— D..S. Black 

photo: D.S. Black 


Our first life 

Not entirely an accident 

Served to focus our intent. 

Seeing through opaque aquarium walls 

Our luminous frailty after all. 

No possibility exists of affecting 

What already transpires on the other side. 

All that remains 

Is to close with the night-rhythms 

To recall each secret breath 

To return to the womb of work 

Facing time as it comes, a reliable ally. 

— Blair Ewing 


Chaff is in my eye, 

A crocodile has me by the leg, 

A goat is in my garden, 

A porcupine is cooking in the pot, 

Meal is drying on the pounding rock. 

The King has summoned me to court. 

And I must go to the funeral of my mother-in-law: 

In short, I am busy. 

— Mbundu origin (Africa) 
(translated by Merlin Ennis) 


The sidewalk stiffly moans as it is force-marched down a 
path it never chose. The streetlamps hiss and whine hollow 
hymns as sodium and halogen are pumped through their 
veins, and thus these prisoners birth a yellow light, a cold 
light which later will deprive the city of its night. 
Skyscrapers carve a wide sky into cubes which even a 
wakeful eye could miss. There is no solace in this sky as 
narrow, close, it makes of the soaring bird a homing gone 
awry, a rock with wings, and thus, designed for you. The 
bird, ahh, but the bird, the same one pardon me 
kamikazing toward your office window, not on the 
twenty-four or thirty-six-month plan, but at this very 
instant, and though you are at your phone, your picture 
window — panoramic consecration to all you have un- 
done — has been awaiting this bird's intent since its days of 
sand. The music of exploding glass announces this 
harbinger of shrill tidings, the unutterable anagram which 
despite your gritting teeth, reveals the musical murmur 
below the tarmac you have clogged. From this point 
onwards, your golden tomorrows will refuse to flower. Go 
ahead. Pick it up from the rug. Heft this still-warm 
half-pound of integrity. Observe the splayed wings, the 
flattened beak, the fully rotating ball and socket head. But 
can you feel its heat, hear the ticking, see the red light in its 
eyes which will not fade, the memory, yes the memory, of 
your song. 

— Art Tishman 

f»R.<:i><:iESSEi:> w<i>r.i.i> 2t3 



Tfl£ G£N£ VOOl 

yj^A dvocates of biotechnology and genetic screening por- 
^^^ V tray their task as a humanitarian endeavor — curing 
^inherited disease. The images they present are diverse and 
compelling: slow death from cystic fibrosis, the frightening 
symptoms of Huntington's disease, the worries of would-be 
parents. Scientists and researchers are portrayed as hard- 
working saviors of suffering humanity. We are promised that 
more corpses will be identified, and that more criminals will 
be captured, as a result of genetic "fingerprinting." Yet these 
promises are a molester's lollipop — desirable trinkets to lure 
us into a trap. The intent may not be criminal, but the results 
can be just as dangerous. 

"Public debate" about genetic screen- 

ing is based on vague promises of future 
possibilities and ignores present realities. 
Despite promises about "the alleviation 
of human suffering," detectable genetic 
disorders constitute a minute fraction of 
the ailments of the species. Potentially 
curable disorders are basically limited to 
those in which a single gene is the 
problem. While a number of genetic 
disorders can be reliably detected, there 
are treatments for only a few. Some 
problems are susceptible to treatment if 
caught early enough (phenylketonuria, 
for example); most cannot be cured. 
Knowledge of such a condition may 
disincline people to have children, and 
prenatal testing may lead to considera- 
tion of an abortion. This same capability 
can also lead to more sinister possibili- 

Proponents argue that testing merely 
increases choices for individuals. The 
knowledge provided by genetic screens 
may lead to prevention of some prob- 
lems (e.g., detection of the gene for 
familial polyposis may "prevent" colon 
cancer by removing the colon), but often 
the practical use of such knowledge is 
limited. Testing, even with volunteers, 
raises problems about implicitly inform- 
ing others (e.g., relatives) who may not 
want to know.' And what about people 
psychologically incapable of dealing with 
the knowledge? Knowledge is a slippery 


slope: today's mysteries are tomorrow's 
disorders. As we identify the function of 
more and more genes, the same impera- 
tive that compels us to analyze will lead 
us to classify and stratify. As social 
values evolve, incorporating new genetic 
concepts, how many people would not 
think it bizarre to terminate a pregnancy 
for genetically identified manic- 
depressive tendencies? Future artists may 

Knowledge is a slippery 

slope; today *s mysteries 

are tomorrow*s disorders. 

. . .The media will gladly 

repeat (and inflate) the 

more exotic claims . . . 

Who benefits and who 

suffers, are social 

questions, not technical 


well have to arrive at their moments of 
creative passion by other means. 

Sickle-Cell & Tay-Sachs 

Detection of a gene-related malady is 
no guarantee that treatment will be 
rapidly developed. The classic example 

— illustrative of 
both the promises and 
pitfalls of genetics — is sickle-cell anemia, 
which has been an object of intense 
scrutiny since the 1940s. Despite a 
detailed knowledge of its biochemistry, 
treatment has not advanced significant- 
ly, unless one argues that the elimination 
of certain possibilities constitutes pro- 
gress towards an ultimate cure. 

The Tay-Sachs disorder, a severely 
disabling — and fatal — malady of the 
nervous system, is also a recessive genetic 
disorder. It is found most commonly in 
northern European Jews, in whom about 
1 out of 3000 is afflicted (1 out of 30 
being carriers), versus 1 out of 600,000 
for other northern Europeans. It can be 
detected by prenatal tests, giving parents 
an option to abort the fetus. It can also 
be detected in adults, who, having been 
born without it, are not at any personal 
risk. The rationale for screening is to 
allow people to decide if they want to 
risk having children. In the early 1970s, 
publicity and voluntary screening pro- 
grams were started. By the mid-1980s 
some 310,000 people had been tested 
worldwide, finding only 268 couples in 
which both partners were carriers.^ 

One of the few objections raised was 
that not everybody in the Jewish popu- 
lation was equally at risk, and that a 
careful examination of family histories 
would have identified those most in 
danger. The widespread screening and 
publicity may thus have aroused unnec- 
essary fears for many people. 

Sickle-cell anemia is a geographically 
widespread, but relatively rare, malady 
that affects the blood's ability to trans- 
port oxygen. This can cause weakness, 
severe pain in the joints, damage to 
internal organs and a shortened life 
span. While the disease has long been 
recognized in Africa — where it is most 
prevalent — it was only identified by 
"Western" medicine in 1910. Only peo- 
ple with a copy of the sickle-cell gene 


from each parent show symptoms of the 
disease; those with only one affected 
gene ("carriers") may have a somewhat 
higher percentage of the sickled hemo- 
globin cells which give the disease its 
name, but evidence that they are more 
susceptible to health problems than 
people without the gene is sketchy (there 
may be a slightly higher risk of kidney 
and spleen problems). 

In 1968 and 1969, four apparently 
healthy black recruits with no history of 
anemia died during basic training at an 
army camp located about 4000 feet 
above sea level. Post-mortems revealed 
severe sickling of the blood; this could, 
however, have been a result of death, 
rather than the cause. Following a 1970 
report in the Neu' England Journal of 
Medicine, the National Academy of 
Sciences' National Research Council 
created a committee to study the issue. 
Despite a lack of conclusive data, they 
called for testing of all recruits for 
sickle-cell. The Air Force went even 
farther, disqualifying carriers from the 
Academy, as well as barring them from 
co-piloting aircraft and all combat avia- 
tion duties. Moreover, despite the con- 
clusions of scientific studies that there 
were no significant differences between 
carriers and non-carriers, in the 1970s 
most major airlines fired or grounded 
personnel who were carriers. In 1979, 
Stephen Pullen — an excellent athlete, a 
mountain climber, and a carrier of 
sickle-cell anemia — was forced to resign 
from the Air Force. He sued, and 
eventually the Air Force changed its 

This is an excellent example of irra- 
tional discrimination because of a ge- 
netic trait. None of the carriers looked or 
acted any differently than anyone else: 
there was no performance-related reason 
for the limitations. Indeed, a study of the 
National Football League showed that 
its members had a significantly higher 
percentage of carriers of sickle-cell ane- 
mia than the population at large (al- 
though average for the African Ameri- 
can population as a whole), yet there 
were no sickle-cell related problems for 
these athletes who exercised hard, for 
years, in difficult circumstances in snow 
or at high altitude. 

Despite being a far less dangerous 
disorder than Tay-Sachs, sickle-cell 
screening programs have mostly been 
involuntary and administered by an 
outside agency. The Tay-Sachs pro- 

grams, in contrast, are relatively decen- 
tralized and are run and staffed largely 
by Jews. Given a history of medical 
discrimination, including the infamous 
1932 Tuskegee syphilis "study," in which 
medical treatment was withheld from 
Black men with the disease for 40 years, 
it is not surprising that the sickle-cell 
programs were bitterly opposed by many 
Blacks. Such programs were ultimately 
unsuccessful, and many have now been 
ended, although a few states still require 
sickle-cell tests. 

Regardless of how well intentioned, 
genetic screening does not take place in 
isolation from the rest of society. Even in 
a non-racist context, possession of a 
genetic disorder can result in discrimina- 
tion, as Troy Duster illustrates in an 
account of Orchomenos, an area in 
Greece where sickle-cell anemia is preva- 
lent: twenty-three percent of the popula- 
tion are carriers."* The people who tested 
positive were stigmatized, even though 
they were not discernibly different from 
anyone else. The Orchomenos experi- 
ence also shows that people don't reject 
genetic screening because of ignorance of 

possible benefits. In point of fact, the 
African American population subjected 
to screening is better educated, more 
literate and more urbanized than the 
villagers of Orchomenos — yet the 
Greeks endorsed screening. As Duster 
says, "The level of trust, not the level of 
education, better explains such compli- 

Consider this 1968 statement by Nobel 
prize winner Linus Pauling: "I have 
suggested that there should be tattooed 
on every young person a symbol show- 
ing possession of the sickle-cell gene or 
whatever similar gene ... in a single 
dose. If this were done, two young 
people carrying the same seriously defec- 
tive gene in single dose would recognize 
this situation at first sight, and would 
refrain from falling in love 
[LJegislation along this line, compulsory 
testing for defective genes before mar- 
riage, and some form of semi-public 
display of this possession, should be 

Beyond the absurd proposition that 
such a "scarlet letter" would preclude 
falling in love, Orchomenos shows that 

Your finest 
hour. . . 

was the moment 
you decided to 
have a genetic 
stopwatch surgi- 
cally implanted 
in every cell. 
Not only will 
you never be 
late again, you 
won't be able 

• Alarm Clocks! 
You'll be 

to lose track of time! 
Feeling each pico- 
second passing will 
open up new fron- 
tiers of personal 
time and space! 
And to top that, 
the U.S. Associa- 
tion of Industrial 
Manufacturers has 
announced preferential 
employment consider- 
ation for all 
CellClockers . . . 


• Clock Radios! • Punching In! 


Not Just Another Bio-Implant— A Way of Life! 

works with our new micro-manager implant to reduce annoying behavior patterns! 


People Like You Helping People Like Us Help Ourselves 

»*B«:i><ZESSEO >/>•<!> B<.*-C> ^Q 


"actual carrier status . . . did not play a 
decisive role in avoidance of mates."* At 
best Pauling's statement is naive and 
hopelessly ignorant of the real world; at 
worst, it is first cousin to compelling Jews 
to wear yellow stars to warn the public of 
the "menace." The Nuremburg War 
Crimes trials specifically condemned leg- 
islation targeting ethnic and racial 
groups; legislation that calls for compul- 
sory testing for racially linked genetic 
traits does precisely that. 

Technical difficulties aside, more peo- 
ple will be faced with discrimination as 
genetic screening becomes common. 
Some already more-or-less clearly identi- 
fied groups (e.g., African Americans, 
Ashkenazi Jews) may find some solidari- 
ty in facing such problems, but overall 
this new "knowledge" is unlikely to help 
them — rather, it will isolate them even 

more. Others, not benefiting from any 
existing solidarity, will face even greater 

Looming behind prospects of frag- 
mentation and stratification is a more 
sinister possibility — control. A clinical 
genetic counselor can subtly manipulate 
a client's decision by shading the presen- 
tation of statistics (for instance, 1 chance 
in 200 of something bad happening 
doesn't seem so bad, unless you compare 
it to 1 chance in 5000). 

A grimmer type of control is becoming 
increasingly common: the intervention 
of a third party in the traditional 
doctor-patient relationship. As an ex- 
ample, consider a woman who is carry- 
ing a fetus with a major defect and 
decides not to have an abortion. Her 
insurance company, which may have 
paid for the test in the first place, states 



Well then it's time to begin channeling that pleasure into useful consumption habits 

that will become the backbone of American Commerce. Forget about a SuperBaby — 

Sign up your newborn to be a 


A consortium of U.S. tobacco companies is offering new parents a special deal: 

Sign your child up before they're two years old and s/he will qualify for a special 

drawing to win HUGE SCHOLARSHIPS!! And they will get free cigarettes while 

in college, the military, or incarcerated (forever!). A free signing bonus is yours: 

a rubber-lined, specially designed oversized ashtray/crib 

that it will not cover medical services for 
that child. The woman's financial op- 
tions thus narrowed, she "chooses" an 
abortion. In an analysis of clinical 
counseling sessions for people at risk for 
Down's syndrome. Duster shows how 
even subtle comments can have a large 
impact.' In more callous hands such 
"counseling" would be far more manipu- 

DNA Fingerprinting 

In addition to manipulative uses of 
genetic screening, biotech also claims it 
can "fingerprint" people. The Pentagon 
is investigating its use in identifying 
corpse fragments. It is also used to 
convict people by linking bits of their 
DNA to crimes. 

This methodology employs what are 
known as "Variable Number Tandem 
Repeat" genes [VNTTls], which vary 
greatly from one person to another. 
They supposedly identify individuals 
based on samples of DNA — usually less 
than half a dozen — that are extracted 
from tissues and compared with traces 
from a crime scene. Proponents claim 
that there is "less than one chance in a 
trillion" that two genetic samples are 
identical by chance. This argument 
depends on some basic assumptions 
about population genetics and the dis- 
tribution of these genes. As Laurence 
Mueller explains: "All the major forensic 
labs calculate the frequency of these 
patterns by the product rule. This rule 
assumes that the copies of a gene you 
inherit from each parent are indepen- 
dent and that these pairs . . . are 
independent of [any other] pairs... 
both assumptions of independence will 
be violated if populations are structured. 
. . . The possible errors . . . are potenti- 
ally enormous. ... A publication . . . 
from the FBI laboratory actually presents 
a statistical analysis . . . which shows 
these independence assumptions are vi- 
olated."^ The FBI argues that the as- 
sumptions are valid anyway. Erroneous 
statements of identity may also result 
from laboratory errors. A false positive 
occurs when two samples are identified 
as being the same even though they are 
not. Mueller cites a proficiency test given 
to Cellmark, a private testing laboratory, 
in which the lab made two false posi- 
tives out of a sample of 100. At best,, 
then, Cellmark can claim a chance of 1 
in 50 that there is a mistaken identifica- 
tion of two samples of DNA. The 
problem, however, doesn't lie with the 
professional competence of any given 


f»R.<I>ClESSEI> WOK.I-.0 313 

lab, but rather with the inadequately 
tested application itself. 

From IQ to Sterilization 

Genetic screening, intertwined with 
race and social power, is also affected by 
history. For many, genetics has the 
immediate connotation of eugenics, a 
word coined by Francis Galton from the 
Greek words for "well-born." He argued 
for "judicious matings ... to give the 
more suitable races or strains of blood a 
better chance of prevailing speedily over 
the less suitable."' It should be noted 
that reactionaries aren't alone in prais- 
ing such ideas — George Bernard Shaw 
and H.G. Wells, among others, were 
proponents of eugenics. As a rule of 
thumb, genetics will be used to explain 
the lower classes' "failings;" positive 
attributes will be explained by "culture." 

In Germany eugenics combined with 
mystical concepts of a "pure" Aryan race 
and led to Nazi barbarism — the deliber- 
ate killing of the "medically unfit," and 
the extermination and enslavement of 
"inferior" races to allow the "pure Ar- 
yans" of the S.S. to repopulate western 

In the United States the popular (but 
less deadly) eugenics movement pushed 
for prohibitions on immigration of "in- 
ferior races," and for sterilization of 
"defectives." In 1905 Alfred Binet de- 
vised an "Intelligence Quotient" test to 
help teachers with students who weren't 
responding to standard methods (Binet 
did not believe in innate stupidity). As 
with other well-intentioned inventions, 
however, the IQ test soon came to be a 
tool for ranking people in a divisive — 
and derisive — manner. By 1912 it was 
being used at Ellis Island to screen out 
"feeble-minded" persons; forty percent 
of Jewish immigrants were so categor- 
ized. '° 

In 1917 the Army began testing large 
numbers of recruits and used the results 
to screen for officer training. This data 
was used in the '20s by eugenicists to 
argue that immigrants from southern 
and eastern Europe were less intelligent 
than their northern European counter- 
parts. It was partly on this "evidence" 
that the Immigration Act of 1924 was 
passed, which drastically reduced the 
flow of southern and eastern Europeans 
(and thereby Jews). 

Sterilization laws were passed in some 
30 states. By 1935 some 25,000 people 
had been sterilized (most of them in 
California); by 1956 the number had 
reached 58,000." The Supreme Court 

upheld the sterilization of imbeciles in 
the 1927 Buck v. Bell decision. An 
institutionalized Virginia woman, Carrie 
Buck, was ordered sterilized on the 
grounds that not only were she and her 
mother imbeciles, but she had given 
birth to a girl also claimed — at one 
month old — to be feeble-minded. (It 
was in this case that Justice Oliver 
Wendell Holmes stated that "three gen- 
erations of imbeciles is enough.") Al- 
though Carrie Buck's daughter was later 
tested at a more reasonable age and was 
found to be of above-average intelli- 
gence, the decision was never over- 


religiosity - 

— Co-dependency 
Utopian dream 

fondness for 

shiny things Low self-esteem- 
Coupon clipping Uses Public 
ingrown toenails 

A marked 



proclivity for 

— common sense 

, can taste 

hormones in beef 

■ writes/buys 
foo many books 

— distaste for 
stupid questions 

— ability to think 
for oneself 

gaps in — 
work history 

Likely to^ — _ 
return merchan- 
dise (choosy 

Supervisor- — 
like behavior 

Asks too — 
many stupid 

shops instead- 
of psychotherapy 

■ Poet Videotapes-.^ 

> Lies on Resume Coors lite ads 

Accumulates propensity for-..^ 

t)arking tickets living in cold, 
wet environments 

-turned on by 
stiletto heels 

Worships dead- 

Oprah fan Superbowl- 

SaniCene Lid. watcher 

graphic: PW collective 

Seven years later, in Skinner v. Oklaho- 
ma, the Court overturned a law that 
ordered the sterilization of persons con- 
victed of three separate felonies — not 
because it was morally wrong, but be- 
cause the law excluded certain kinds of 
"white-collar" crime, violating the 14th 
Amendment's guarantees of equal pro- 
tection. The validity of sterilization to 
"treat" antisocial behavior was not 

Because of the unhealthy aroma of the 

Nazi nightmare, eugenicist ideas retreat- 
ed temporarily after 1945. In the late 
1960s these theories began to reappear. 
Borrowing some of the lustre of molecu- 
lar genetics and its (limited) successes, 
they crept back, addressing precisely the 
same complex behaviors — intelligence, 
insanity and criminality. 

Criminal Genes, Stupid Genes 

In 1965 the British magazine Lancet 
published an article on 197 patients at a 
high-security mental hospital in Scot- 
land. They had been chosen because 
they were "mentally subnormal male 
patients with dangerous, violent, or 
criminal propensities."'^ The researchers 
found that seven (3.5 percent) of the 
men had an unusual genetic abnormal- 
ity. Instead of the usual pair of XY 
chromosomes (one from each parent; the 
mother always contributing an X, the 
father contributing either another X or a 
Y), they had an XYY configuration — an 
extra copy of the chromosome that 
determines the development of males. 
Could that extra Y chromosome pre- 
destine a child to a life of crime and 
violence? Could it shed light on geneti- 
cally normal males and aggression? 
Studies showed a disproportionately 
high ratio of XYY males in prisons and 
mental hospitals, which the media sen- 
sationalized. Prenatal screening was pro- 
posed, with abortion being the implied 
"treatment." In 1968, Walzer and Gerald 
at Harvard began a long-term study that 
screened male infants born at the Boston 
Hospital for Women. Although there 
wasn't any "therapy," the researchers 
proposed counseling sessions with "an- 
ticipatory guidance." 

By 1974, however, the study was being 
challenged. Geneticists Jonathan Beck- 
with at Harvard and Jonathan King at 
MIT published a paper in New Scientist 
that attacked the studies of the XYY 
condition on several grounds. "They 
had been poorly designed, filled with 
logical inconsistencies and crippled by 
inadequate comparisons with matched, 
normally functioning XYY males as 
controls. . . . At the core of their critique 
[were] serious ethical questions 
..."'■' Perhaps most important, Beck- 
with and King objected to labeling an 
innocent child "as genetically prone to 
aggression and violence. This label could 
also contribute to a childhood setting in 
which a level of anger quite acceptable in 
a normal XY boy would be treated with 
undue concern by fearful parents . . . 
This distortion could generate new be- 
havioral problems."'^ 

f»8«I><Z.ESSHO WOFtl^O ^3 


While the Harvard research review 
committee did not halt the study, Walzer 
announced in 1975 that he was ending 
it. Within a couple of years most XYY 
studies had folded. A 1979 review con- 
cluded that there were no consistent 
differences between XYY males and 
"normal" XY males other than the 
chromosome difference itself, almost all 
XYY males lead quite normal lives. In 
addition to the methodological problems 
of trying to generalize from a narrow 
sample (people in prisons) to the popula- 
tion at large, the XYY studies showed a 
certain callousness to the subjects. The 
debate was also clouded by those who 
wanted to show that males are genetical- 
ly prone to violence. It was further 
confused by people with little under- 
standing of genetics, such as those who 
wished to "weed out" the condition, 
which is impossible, as it is not a 
hereditary problem. It can occur during 
the creation of germ cells during each 
and every generation. The XYY studies, 
like other eugenicist work, presented a 
simple answer for complex issues, and 
did so by focusing on "problems." 

Mental abilities have also been subject 
to simplistic explanations. Intelligence 
undoubtedly has a polygenic compo- 
nent, and is clearly affected by very 
complex environmental factors. This is 
virtually ignored by those positing a 
genetic (and usually racial) basis for 

Duster points out that in the early 
part of the century, various universities 
and schools implemented standardized 
testing in order to exclude Jews, who had 
low IQ scores as immigrants. By the 
1960s, however, this supposed genetic 
"problem" seemed to have vanished 
from the Jewish population, whose 
scores on standardized tests were above 
average. A study in Scotland compared 
Jewish school children with their peers 
and found that the Jews on the average 
were scoring 117.8 on IQ tests, while 
their schoolmates were averaging — as 
expected — 100. Duster compares this 
with Arthur Jensen's racist studies on 
IQ, which found comparable differences 
with the Scottish study: "The difference 
in means is statistically significant at a 
level remarkably comparable to mean 
differences between blacks and whites in 
America that Jensen . . . reported. The 
author of the Scottish report [unlike 
Jensen] chose to interpret the results as 
explainable by cultural not genetic fac- 

Although genetic explanations of be- 
havior have taken the molecular genetics 
mantle as their own, proponents are 
unwilling to heed studies that discredit 
their position. Despite repeated studies 
that cast doubt on simple genetic ex- 
planations of mental traits, the same old 
lies are repeated. Jensen, for instance, 
based part of his work on Cyril Burt, a 
leading proponent of innate mental 
differences between classes. Burt was 
discredited for forging data in his studies 
of twins, which helped justify the class- 
based IQ tracking in British schools. In 
the study of heredity and insanity many 
papers continue to cite the long- 
discredited work of Franz Kallman, a 
student of Ernst Rudin, who advocated 
sterilizing schizophrenics in Nazi Ger- 
many. Bad science has a way of living 

on, especially when it is politically useful. 
While the "old eugenics" will not return 
in its original form, the political agenda 
that drives the implementation of ge- 
netic technology hasn't changed. 

Genetic Values 

Just as our cultural values influence 
what science studies, science's views 
shape our own world. Common risks in 
any new field are simplification and the 
attempt to explain too much. While 
most molecular geneticists are unwilling 
to make grandiose claims, others in 
kindred fields are not. The media will 
gladly repeat (and inflate) the more 
exotic claims. Beyond the obvious issues 
of racism and prejudice, a simple reading 
of genetics encourages a deterministic 
view of the world; this gene says thus- 





f»R.<:>Cl£SSSI> W<I>B<*_I> 3t3 




For the Convenience of Future Patrons, Please Record Below 
the Date of Attack and Number and Type of Casualties: 




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Mildly Annoyed. 




This neighborly warning brought to you by your tax dollars and 


and-such, and so it will be. In fact, most 
phenotypes — the expression of geno- 
types — are strongly influenced by envi- 
ronment. But such explanations are not 
as popular as they were a quarter century 
ago, and have never held much appeal 
for those in power. Genetic heritage is a 
ready explanation for failure and success. 
Given the American predilection for 
avoiding personal responsibility, such an 
easy explanation is bound to find adher- 
ents. As Gregory Kavka points out, 
"Old aristocracies of birth, or color, or 
gender may dissipate, only to be replaced 
by a new genetic aristocracy."''' Society 
may come to view parents as being more 
responsible for their children, while 
parents may see their children more as a 

product line. Society may further reduce 
its already meager tolerance for diversity. 
Modern genetics is, for the most part, 
limited to studying "problems," not only 
out of cultural bias (and human sympa- 
thy), but because such obvious genetic 
"errors" as Tay-Sachs and phenylketo- 
nuria are (relatively) clear expressions of 
single genes. While such small advances 
are pleasing, they feed the idea that 
scientific progress takes place in cumula- 
tive increments. With (relatively) primi- 
tive tools it's certainly easier to study 
simple problems; but polygenic condi- 
tions may not be susceptible to the same 
methodologies. In this case a quantita- 
tive increase may well lead to a qualita- 
tive change in the problem. 

One of Western science's advantages 
has been its ability to study single events, 
isolated from the complexities of real life. 
It is not clear how well our current 
theories and tools will deal with the 
extraordinary complexity of human 
genetics, despite the fond dreams moti- 
vating mega-research projects such as the 
Human Genome Project. Furthermore, 
the real — if limited — success of the field 
feeds an unhealthy tendency towards a 
manipulative and instrumental view of 
humans and nature. As geneticists be- 
come more adept, and as society be- 
comes more technologically jaded, ex- 
periments that would not be given 
serious consideration now may well 
become the norm. 

Complexities: "Useful Diseases" 
and "Junk Information" 

Sickle-cell anemia illustrates a thorny 
question: When is a disorder bad? Sick- 
le-cell can be debilitating for some of the 
afflicted, but most people with the 
disease lead normal lives, and carriers 
aren't affected at all. Indeed, the sickle- 
cell trait helps to prevent malaria in 
carriers, which accounts for the relative- 
ly high frequency of this genetic "disor- 
der." One book on modern genetics 
manages to discuss sickle-cell anemia for 
many pages without ever mentioning 

Genetic variations may have hidden 
benefits, which makes naive genetic 
manipulation in whole populations a 
very scary concept. Science simply does 
not know enough about the body's 
chemistry, or about the subtle interac- 
tions of different genes, to state with 
confidence the likely consequences of 
eliminating (or changing) a given gene. 

Neurofibromatosis (NF), an autosomal 
recessive disorder (meaning that a "dose" 
of the gene from both parents is needed 
to cause the problem), affects about 1 out 
of 4000 people worldwide, making it a 
relatively common malady. It is expres- 
sed in a wide variety of symptoms, which 
makes diagnosis difficult. This complexi- 
ty is mirrored at the genetic level as 
researchers have realized "that identifi- 
cation of the large NF gene had been 
elusive because three other genes are 
embedded within it . . . [and] the func- 
tions of the embedded genes are not 
known . . ."''^ Such intervening sections 
of genetic material {introns) are some- 
times referred to as "junk information," 
but such segments of DNA are not 
necessarily unused. A genetic problem 
can have more that one genetic expres- 
sion. "Importantly, the particular gene- 

t»R.<I><ZESSEO W<I>fi<l_t> StSJ 


tic change . . . found in a particular CF 
[cystic fibrosis] patient is not constant 
among all individuals with CF. The most 
common CF mutation occurs in about 
70 percent of the cases . . . practically 50 
other much less common CF-causing 
mutations are known . . . "^° Such com- 
plexity makes mapping the gene (i.e., 
identifying known pieces of DNA that 
are found in afflicted people, and not 
found in others) much more difficult, 
and makes accurate sequencing (listing 
precisely all of a gene's constituent bases) 
even more difficult. The challenges of 
genetic therapy are yet more daunting. 

And Now? 

Science's ability to produce a technical 
solution to every problem is fundamen- 
tally a question of scientistic self- 
promotion. Promises of gene therapy, for 
example, are not credible. The indeter- 
minate nature of genetic manipulations 
and individual variability promises that 
such ventures will be tentative at best. 
One recent trial involved a transfusion 
of white blood cells carrying a gene for a 
substance a patient was deficient in.^' 
There was no attempt to change the cells 
that manufactured the patient's white 
blood cells so they would have the 
correct gene; the billion engineered cells 
in the transfusion all died relatively 
quickly. Even the most ardent advocates 
of gene therapy are not planning to 
tamper (yet) with the germ cells that 
control reproduction. The tinkering is 
limited to somatic cells — those that 
constitute our bodies. Any plan to 
"eliminate" a disorder such as Hunting- 
ton's disease by tailoring sperm/egg cells 
so that they do not have the defective 
gene belongs to the remote future. ^^ 

But we shouldn't ignore problems 
closer to hand. Diane Paul has argued 
that eugenics — as a code-word for 
coercion — is the "approved" anxiety of 
the Human Genome Project." We 
shouldn't be blind to the repressive uses 
of genetics, but we should not ignore 
issues of personal choice and freedom 
that genetic medicine raises. Virtually 
any screening can determine a fetus' sex 
long before birth. What shall we do with 
this new power? In Bombay in the early 
'80s there were 7,997 female fetuses from 
8,000 abortions.^'' At least some of the 
problems are clear, and are not limited 
to the "Third World." Solutions, how- 
ever, are not so apparent. Pass laws? 
Depend upon "the marketplace" to allo- 
cate the benefits? Do we envision a world 

in which individuals have more freedom 
because of genetic knowledge, or one in 
which healthy people are diagnosed as 
being diseased, and the results broadcast 
to the world like a bad credit rating? 

In this country different legal remedies 
have been proposed to deal with the 
spread of such information, but there is 
opposition to controls. The Health In- 
surance Association of America's Jude 
Payne, criticizing legislation barring in- 
surance companies from access to indi- 
viduals' genetic information, said "We 
need to know what they know. . . . Why 
is genetic information more confidential 
than other medical information?"^^ Den- 
mark's parliament recently resolved to 
introduce legislation to ban the use of 
genetic testing for insurance, pension 
and employment purposes. This nar- 
rowly passed bill (61-60), introduced by 
the Socialist Party, speaks of intervening 
in the use of DNA analysis "before it is 
too late." 

As Evelyn Fox Keller put it: "you 


1) Lois Wingerson, "Mapping Our Genes — The 
Genome Project and the Future of Medicine," 1990, 
Penguin, New York, NY, Chapter 10, "Frances," pages 

2) Troy Duster, "Backdoor to Eugenics," 1990, Rout- 
ledge, Chapman 6j. Hall, New York, NY, page 26. 

3) Duster, op. cit., pages 43-45. 

4) Duster, op. cit., pages 88-92. 

5) cited in Duster, page 46. 

6) Duster, op. cit., page 89. 

7) Duster, op. cit.. Appendix B, pages 137-159, 

8) Laurence D. Mueller, "Population Genetics of DNA 
Typing," paper presented at University of California 
Humanities Research Institute conference (UCHRI), May, 

9) David Suzuki &. Peter Knudson, "Genethics — The 
Clash Between the New Genetics and Human Values," 
1990, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, page 21. 

10) Duster, op. cit., page 13. 

11) Duster, op. cit., page 30. 

12) Duster, op. cit., pg 29. 

13) Suzuki &. Knudson, op. cit., page 127. See Chapter 
6, pages 123-141 for a detailed discussion of the XYY issue. 

14) Suzuki & Knudson, op. cit., page 136. 

One of a series of 4 post- 
cards, each of which are 
different anagrams of "The 
United States of America." 
Another image is of the 
Statue of Liberty with the 
caption "Statue in search 
of a meat diet." They're by 
Max Handley (1945-1990), 
and can be obtained from 
Tony Allen c/o Knockabout 
Gallery, 10 Acklam Rd., 
London W10 5QZ, England. 

don't have a new eugenics without 
genetic screening. . . . [T]o intervene 
effectively you have to be able to be 
critical, to know what the limitations of 
the information that is being transmitted 
are . . . You have to be aware of the ways 
in which that information — even with 
qualifications — will be heard in differ- 
ent ways by different groups of people."^* 
Certainly an emphasis on education is 
important, although Keller points out 
that "there are many people who are 
genuinely concerned and eager to pursue 
these questions [of ethics]. What you 
find is that they don't have the terms, 
they don't have the vocabulary with 
which to do it." 

Who benefits, and who suffers, are 
social questions, not technical ones. In a 
society in which these questions are 
ignored, or the province solely of ex- 
perts, we have neither a language nor a 
forum for such a discussion. Does silence 
indeed imply consent? 

— Primitivo Morales 

15) Suzuki and Knudson, op. cit., page 136-137. 

16) Duster, op. cit., page 10. See pages 9-12 for a 
discussion of IQ and race. 

17) Gregory S. Kavka, "Upside Risks; Social Conse- 
quences of Beneficial Biotechnology," paper presented at 
UCHRI conference. May, 1991. 

18) Lo.s Wingerson, op. cit., pages 62-75, 70-75, 289-291. 

19) Jeffrey L. Fox &. Jennifer Van Brunt, "Towards 
Understanding Human Genetic Diseases," Bio /technology, 
October, 1990, page 909. 

20) Fox Sc Brunt, page 906. 

21) "Gene Therapy Protocol Begins," Bio /Technology, 
October, 1990, page 889. 

22) See Suzuki and Knudson, "Gene Therapy", Chapter 
8, pages 163-191 for a discussion. 

23) Diane B. Paul, "Eugenic Anxieties, Social Realities, 
and the Genome Initiative," paper presented at UCHRI 
conference. May, 1991. 

24) Duster, op. cit., page 33. 

25) John Hodgson, "Denmark Bans Use of Testing 
Info," Bio/techno!og\, June, 1991, page 508. 

26) Evelyn Fox Keller, "Decoding the Human Genome 
Project," interview by Larry Casalino, Socialist Review, 
91/2, page 127. 


f»R.<IXIlESSSIl» WCL>R.*.I> 2i3 



e've all heard stories about Cuba's embedded bureaucracy, 
centralized planning, restricted freedoms and undemo- 
cratic decision making. Yet Cuba has made some remarkable ad- 
vances since the revolution. Living conditions have improved 
considerably, particularly public health. Life expectancy (75 years) 
and infant mortality (10 per 1000) are comparable to Western 
Europe. Cubans have access to one of the best health care systems 
in the world for free. 

Intrigued, I went to see the island my- 
self. I travelled as a researcher, one of the 
few legal ways to bypass the travel ban. 
As a medical worker, I wanted to get a 
first hand look at Cuba's health care sys- 
tem and biotechnology industry. 


Health care has been a high priority of 
the Cuban government (15 percent of 
total GNP) since the early days of the 
revolution. Considerable resources have 
been invested in new technology, drugs, 
doctors, and increased access, especially 
for rural dwellers. The fledgling biotech- 
nology industry provides the medical 
system with both drugs and diagnostic 

Cuba's biotechnology industry began 
in 1981 when a group of scientists began 
producing human leukocyte alpha inter- 
feron to treat outbreaks of dengue fever 
virus and acute hemorrhagic conjunc- 
tivitis ostensibly caused by CIA biologi- 
cal weapons. A decision was then made 
to create an institution for the produc- 
tion of interferon on a larger scale and to 
promote the development of molecular 
biology in general. In January 1982, the 
CIB (Centre de Invt^ligaciomi ^iologicos, 
or Center for Biological Research) was 

Between 1982 and 1986 the govern- 
ment invested heavily in the CIB, sent 
scientists to Europe and Japan for train- 
ing, and succeeded in building Cuba's 
biotechnology industry to a technologi- 
cal level approaching that of industrial- 
ized nations. By 1986 Cuba was hosting 

international seminars on biotechnology, 
attended by hundreds of delegates from 
dozens of countries. 

In 1986, the new CIGB (Centre de 
Ingemeria Gtmixca Y ^xoieaxologia, or 
Center for Genetic Engineering and 
Biotechnology) was inaugurated on the 
outskirts of Havana, replacing the out- 

Quha^s hioiecYinoXogy 
industry began in 1981 
vo\ien a group of scientists 
began producing inter' 
feron to treat outbreaks 
of dengue fever virus and 
acute hemorrhagic con- 
junctivitis, ostensibly 

caused by CIA 
biological weapons. 

dated CIB facility. The Center is a 
complex of research, production, and 
quality control units similar in layout to 
U.S. biotech facilities. The complex has 
modern equipment, mostly imported 
from Europe and Japan, some of which is 
identical to that used by biotech compa- 
nies and universities in the U.S. (e.g. 
Pharmacia-LKB brand chromatography 
equipment, made in Sweden). 

In spite of this technological growth, 
Cuba is in no way self-sufficient. The 

U.S. embargo, the fall of communism in 
Eastern Europe and the collapse of the 
Soviet economy have led to a severe 
fiscal crisis called the "special period." 
There are long lines for basic supplies, 
including food. Also in short supply are 
many essential medicines, a problem 
that the CIGB hopes to alleviate by 
producing drugs domestically. 

CIGB officials claim to have produced 
an extraordinary amount of drugs, in- 
cluding four types of interferon, human 
transfer factor, recombinant epidermal 
growth factor, recombinant streptokin- 
ase, and recombinant Hepatitis B vac- 
cine. They also claim that CIGB pro- 
duces chromatographic media, mono- 
clonal antibodies, an HIV diagnostic 
system, enzymes, restriction endonu- 
cleases, nucleic acid modification en- 
zymes, plasmids, and phages. Some of 
this I was able to corroborate, such as 
the HIV diagnostic system, while Cuba's 
production and use of interferon is 
described in scientific journals. 


The stated goal of Cuban biotechno- 
logy is to meet human needs and 
promote self-sufficiency. A CIGB official 
told me that only "sure things" are 
funded. If an AIDS drug is being 
produced successfully elsewhere, for ex- 
ample, and is known to work, then "we 
will invest the time and money produc- 
ing it. We are not likely, however, to 
receive funding to look for a cure for 
AIDS because it is an expensive, long- 
term project, requiring considerably 
more resources than we have readily 
available, and it is unlikely to lead to any 
immediate benefits to the public." 

Cuba's production of interferon con- 
tradicts this policy of focusing on proven 
medications. It is strikingly similar to 
one of the primary problems of capitalist 
biotechnology: overemphasis on the new 
and exotic. One implication of this, in 

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both Cuba and the U.S., is neglect of 
more urgent public health needs. 

When Cuba began work on interferon 
back in 1981, it was thought to be a 
wonder drug for the treatment of cancer 
and viral infections. In the laboratory it 
has been shown to inhibit viral replica- 
tion and tumor growth and to improve 
immune response, indicating a wide 
variety of potential uses. Ten years later, 
however, interferon has not been the 
panacea proponents had hoped. While it 
is generally considered effective for treat- 
ing Kaposi's Sarcoma and chronic hepa- 
titis B, interferon has not yet found 
widespread therapeutic use in the major- 
ity of cases and has made surprisingly 
little progress in clinical tests on hu- 

Other drugs being produced at CIGB 
are potentially more useful than inter- 
feron due to proven clinical success. 

Streptokinase, an inexpensive drug that 
dissolves blood clots in the heart, is an 
important medication in Cuba, where 
heart disease is one of the primary causes 
of death. Domestic production of the 
vaccine for Hepatitis B (which is very 
expensive to import) could save money 
and lives, given its prevalence in the 

Cuban biotech is also working on 
improving agricultural diversity and 
productivity. Cuba has a large and fertile 
base for agriculture, but in the past it has 
been used primarily for monocultures 
like sugar and tobacco. After disastrous 
results, the government is again diversi- 
fying crops. The CIGB hopes to improve 
output through the use of biofertilizers 
(micro-organisms able to convert raw 
materials in soil into organic materials). 
This could reduce imports of expensive 
and dangerous chemical fertilizers and 

produce more food at lower cost. They 
are also working on developing resistant 
strains of tobacco, coffee and citrus, 
which could decrease the need for pest- 
icides, though they did not indicate if 
similar attempts were being made to 
improve the resistance and resiliency of 
staples such as rice and beans. 


Cuba is directing some research into 
"green" medicine, in which researchers 
examine the usefulness of herbs already 
known to folk healers as effective medi- 
cines. Use of herbal remedies was once 
widespread in Cuba, and continues 
among Cuba's Chinese community, but 
declined as modern medicine became 
more accessible. In the late 70s and early 
80s, however, Cuban clinicians realized 
that these medicines were not only 
expensive, but have many side effects. 
Herbs currently being examined include: 
Yerba Buena (mint), which can be used 
as a topical antiseptic and cough sup- 
pressant; Cona Santa, for its effective- 
ness as a sedative; and oregano, for its 
diuretic and hypotension effects. 

The fact that medicines reach the 
Cuban people for little or no cost may 
contribute to the optimism and enthusi- 
asm I noticed among Cuban biotech 
workers. Researchers felt they were con- 
tributing to the revolution by providing 
an essential medical service. Biotech 
workers in the U.S. also believe they are 
providing a useful service to the public, 
but seem more cynical about their role. 

The Cuban public appears to be very 
proud of their health care system, yet 
barriers exist to the continued improve- 
ment of public health. AIDS prevention, 
for example, attempts to popularize con- 
dom use through radio and T.V., but 
does not target culturally distinct groups. 
Despite a large number of Afro-Cuban 
and women doctors, all the health 
officials I saw in Cuba were heterosexual 
white males. Denial by health care 
bureaucrats that a gay community exists 
in Cuba hinders adequate prevention 

The Cuban health and biotechnology 
industries provide essential, beneficial 
services to the Cuban public with mod- 
ern technology. Yet Cuba's paternalistic 
socio-political system gets in the way, 
lending to an abuse of power and pti- 
tcntial social catastrophe. Nevertheless, 
as a low inct^me, uninsured U.S. citizen, 
I believe health care in Cuba is un- 
questionably superior. 

— Michael Dunn 


i*K.<:i>dEssEiL» >>v<i:>R.i.o ^a 


It t> <:»/*• l>l T I iV\E 




The Department of Health Services 
(DHS) is presently trying to license a 
low-level radioactive waste (LLRW) 
dump in the East Mojave Desert's Ward 
Valley near Needles, California. After a 
couple of legal snags are ironed out, the 
dump can theoretically begin operating 
by year's end. 

According to federal law, states will 
have to dispose of their own nuclear 
waste by 1993. This clears the federal 
government of liability, and virtually 
mandates nuclear waste dumping. The 
theory is: out of sight, out of mind. Still, 
every state except California has slowed 
down or stopped their dump licensing 
process, taking their cue from states with 
leaky dumps that had to be closed. So far 
every LLRW dump in this country has 
leaked; the only three still in operation 
want to restrict intake by 1993. Since no 
new LLRW dump has been created in 
the United States in 20 years, the nuke 
industry is getting desperate and Needles 
could easily become a national dump. 
Eighteen states have already expressed 
interest in dumping there. In the future, 
the 70-acre dump license application 
could easily be expanded since no one's 
watching: the land transfer for the site is 

1.000 acres, 

The pro-nuclear Department of Ener- 
gy (DOE) estimates 80 percent of ra- 
dioactive waste nationally comes from 
nuclear power plants. The industry 
needs dumps to handle the enormous 
increase in waste from a planned new 
generation of plants. California's site is 
central to the agenda, as California is 
supposed to lead the way and encourage 
other states to build their own dumps. In 
the industry's favor, California is known 
as environmentally aware, which helps 
project a safe image. In the meantime. 
Needles will be open game, as California 
cannot legally refuse waste from other 
states if federal officials declare an "emer- 

In many ways the Mojave Desert, arid 
and remote, represents an ideal dump 
site for the nation's nuclear industry. 
The press covers up disasters such as 
Hanford and Rancho Seco, reporting on 
these "accidents" only years later. Why 
not have them someplace far removed? 
What's in the Mojave besides a few cacti 
and desert tortoises? 

In any case, with the nation's fifth 
largest nuclear industry, California has 
more than 2,200 licensed nuclear opera- 
tors who are paying the state to build a 
dump. Often located on faultlines, these 
companies cannot safely store on-site. 
As an incentive, the state will have to 
start paying liability fees if a dump isn't 
created by 1993. And why limit nuclear 
waste? It can be profitable since the DOE 
will pay for waste by-products such as 
radioactive cesium and cobalt. Waste 
can be used in food processing too. 

The DOE says only 6 percent of waste 
by volume, and 0.5 percent by radioac- 
tivity comes from medical sources. But 
U.S. Ecology (USE), the dump contract- 
or chosen by the Department of Health 
Services, lied about this, saying that 
percent of LLRW is medical. In the 
discussion of medical waste, the industry 
typically manipulates statistics by dis- 
cussing LLRW in terms of volume as 

opposed to radioactivity. Industry PR 
men exploit the public's ignorance about 
radiation by failing to mention that 
radiation is harmful in trillionths of 

"Low-level radioactive waste" is a 
misleading term, for low-level wastes can 
be even more toxic than high-level 
wastes, remaining deadly for hundreds of 
thousands of years. Legal definitions are 
also manipulated, with wastes from de- 
commissioned nuclear power plants. 
Highly radioactive fuel cores are defined 
neither as high-level nor low-level 
wastes; because of this uncertainty, they 
could someday end up in LLRW dumps. 
The nuclear industry uses a variety of 
jargon, scientific and legal, to promote 
confusion and further its interests. 

USE was chosen by the DHS to op- 
erate Ward Valley despite a history of 
legal and environmental misconduct. 
Currently involved in litigation over 
several toxic waste dumps and a LLRW 
dump in Kentucky, USE tried to flee 
Illinois when sued for $100 million over 
its badly leaking LLRW dump. In part, 
Illinois' experience is delaying Califor- 
nia's licensing process, as the state 
controller. Gray Davis, wants evidence 
that USE would be liable for its own 
mess. But insurance companies won't 
cover cleanup costs for migratory con- 
tamination: townspeople in Illinois 
wanted their dump entirely removed and 
got only $8 million. When it comes to 
nuclear matters, the public eats the 
industry's mistakes. 

USE tried to escape its bad reputation 
by changing its name from Nuclear 
Engineering and went into isolated, 
economically-depressed Needles promis- 
ing jobs. The possibility of employment 
won local support until residents learned 
only a few jobs would be created, as USE 
monitors its sites as little as possible. 

What worries people is that USE's 
plans for the Mojave — digging shallow, 
unlined trenches as receptacles for 
LLRW, which could be packaged in 
plastic bags or cardboard boxes — led to 
disaster in other states. Then Bechtel 
entered the picture, hired by USE to 
study the Mojave's waterways and de- 
termine if the desert would be safe from 
contamination. Since Bechtel happens 
to be a huge nuclear producer, the 
corporation not surprisingly decided 
Ward Valley is a "closed system" and 
would not endanger any water sources. 

»»b«i><i:essec* WC1>R.1-0 2t€$ 


Yet the area is known for its flash floods 
and the Colorado River, which supplies 
LA and much of the southwest with 
water, is just 13 miles away. The dump 
site also sits right above a huge un- 
derground lake. 

Native Americans say the Mojave's 
waterways are beyond our understand- 
ing, and their ancestral lands will be 
endangered by USE's dump. But in 
Sacramento, the claims of indigenous 
peoples count about as much as desert 
tortoises (which USE plans to make safe 
by building fences to keep them off-site). 
The same with Needles: only a few 
thousand people live there; their vote 
hardly counts. If the DHS plays its cards 
right, the dump will be licensed before 
the rest of California knows about it. 

At the moment a state-wide coalition, 
Don't Waste California, is working to 
stop the dump, using legal means. But if 
legal efforts fail — and the coalition is 
having trouble recruiting "pro bono" 
lawyers to work on the case — then 
direct action will be the next step. 

For info on hovj to stop the dump, contact 
Abalone Alliance: (415) 861-0592 or Seeds 
of Peace: (415)420-1799. 

— Lili Ledbetter 


After the First Gathering of the In- 
digenous Peoples of the Xingu River 
Basin in Altamira (Feb. 1989), we re- 
solved to create and register the Ecology 
Group of Xingu (Grupo Ecologico do 
Xingu), for the preservation of the entire 
ecosystem in the northern area of the 
Xingu River Basin. This work involves: 
Indians living in the area, and other 
people of the forest (rubbertappers, set- 
tlers, fishermen, goldminers, etc.). We 
are involved in educational work 
through the schools in first and second 

grades, and lectures in communities and 
neighborhoods of the city. 

We face a lack of resources and 
materials. We don't get any support, as 
the municipalities of this region don't 
support environmentalism, all the local 
politicians and powerful people are 
members of the UDR (Rural Democratic 
Union — sponsors of right-wing pistol- 
eiros who murder labor and church 
leaders in the region), and are also huge 

We conducted an arduous study on 
the question of mercury pollution in our 
rivers here in Amazonia, fruit of the 
uncontrolled gold mining. From this 
experience, we wrote a cautionary little 
book in a popular style (Oxente Bichinl 
Mercurio? 'Nao!!'.), denouncing what is 

Recently another union leader was 
killed in the town of Rio Maria, over a 
land struggle. They caught the assassin, 
but the instigator remains untouched, 
and worse is that the Public Defender is a 
UDR leader in the south of Para. 

In 1992, there will be a big United 
Nations meeting on environmental is- 
sues in Rio de Janeiro. We are thinking 
of holding a parallel convention, since it 
is assumed that the UN will fail to 
address either our expectations or our 

— Joao de Castro Ribeiro 

Caixa Postal 676, Agencia Centro, 
Belem, Para, 66,000, Brazil 


The most far-reaching aspect of popu- 
lar video use in the United States has 
been the growth of the public access 
movement. Access to channels and 
studio space and equipment is part of the 
cable franchising process in cities and 
towns across the nation. This movement 
has been under-reported and misunder- 
stood by both main-stream press and 
media critics. It is a grass-roots move- 
ment of tremendous potential, although 
it varies a great deal in details from city 
to city. 

In 1981 I was one of the founders of 
the public access TV series. Paper Tiger 
Television. These programs have been 
developed not only as programming on 
Manhattan Cable (and several other 
systems around the country) but as a 
model series for creative low-budget use 
of studio, small format cameras and local 
resources. The Paper Tiger Collective 

People around the country make shows. . . 

has now produced almost 200 programs 
of media criticism. 

Paper Tiger drew a number of enthusi- 
asts from around the country and we 
were able to make contact with other 
progressive public access users, many of 
whom expressed the desire to exchange 
programming. It was out of these discus- 
sions that we were able to form the Deep 
Dish Satellite Network, a collaborative 
organization of access activists and pro- 
ducers, to share our programming via 
the commercial satellites. The programs 
are picked up by public access stations 
across the country and shown "live" or 
re-broadcast on local channels. 

Most of the programs have been 
magazine-type shows, each tackling one 
specific social issue. For example, one 
program is called Home Sweet Homefront. 
Produced by Louis Messiah, it combines 
footage on the struggles for housing from 
many different communities, from Phil- 
adelphia, NYC's Lower East Side and 
Minneapolis, among others. The com- 
munity video footage is ironically framed 
with Mumford-esque clips from housing 
films from the New Deal. The program 
neatly juxtaposes the homeless activists 
with the liberal rhetoric from a bygone 
era. In direct contrast to the decontex- 
tualized and atomized way these issues 
are portrayed in the nightly network 
news, the local struggles are re- 
contextualized in this program, and 
given an additional historical frame of 
reference. Other Deep Dish shows focus 
on the farm foreclosure crisis, pesticides, 
women's issues and racism. 

The shows have been popular on local 
channels, especially with over-worked 
and under-appreciated access volunteers 
who see the series as a valorization of the 
work they do in their communities. 
Often these groups are isolated and 
alienated from their local communities. 
Deep Dish uses the technology to create 
communities of interest that prove to the 
video producers and the organizing 
groups that their work is part of a larger 


f»R.c:>ciEs;sEo woftLc* :as 

movement. Letters of support to Deep 
Dish have one phrase that is most often 
repeated: "Now we know we are not 

Deep Dish has also received letters 
from home satellite owners, a potential 
audience which now numbers over four 
million. The majority of dish owners are 
in isolated rural areas without any other 
source of television signals. This individ- 
ual satellite audience has been fully 
appreciated by Christian broadcasters, 
who use them for fundraising and for 
proselytizing to other viewers. 

We take 'em to an "Uplink" which 
beams the program up to a satellite— 

The right wing in this country has 
proved effective in their creation, 
through media technology of an audi- 
ence and a community that transcends 
geographic boundaries with technology. 
Their early use of direct mail and 
computer lists was only tardily replicated 
by environmental and anti-militarist 
groups. However, in recent years we 
have seen the successful development of 
Peacenet, a progressive computer net- 
work. Peacenet provides electronic mail 
and computer data bases in such fields as 
environmental research, media analysis, 
Latin American refugee assistance, and 
anti-nuclear organizing. Many individu- 
als and groups have come to rely on the 
circuits of data and exchange thereby 
provided. This network will be an im- 
portant resource for any future network- 
ing possibilities in the video community. 

Anyone with a satellite dish can receive 
the Deep Dish programs— 

In the process of raising money for the 
Deep Dish series, I have had to address 
the question of why the left in the 
United States has not made use of 
potentially powerful tools for organizing 
and distribution of alternative media. 
Although in recent years there has been 
increasing willingness to critique main- 
stream media (The Institute for Media 
Analysis, and Fairness and Accuracy in 
Reporting [FAIR] are two organizations 
dedicated to this purpose.), there has 
been relatively little activity in the realm 
of creating alternatives to the official 
media. Issue after issue has been covered 
by individual films and videos, but there 
has been a reluctance to tackle broader 
distribution schemes. 

The satellite beams the program back to 
earth in a pattern called a "Footprint." 

Public Access Cable Systems send it out 
to all the subscribers in town- 
Deep Dish TV has been working with 
several other groups to initiate discus- 
sions about creating an authentic alter- 
native network: a 24-hour transponder 
that will be a source for progressive 
programs and news. It is an uphill 
struggle. The resistance is not techno- 
logical, but more ideological and finan- 
cial. It is easier to get funds for a film 
about a coal strike than a film about the 
lies the media are telling about the coal 
company. It is easier to organize a 
speaking tour than the circulation of a 
television series. Unfortunately the right 
in this country doesn't have these inhib- 

One of the most interesting uses of 
video is as self-defense against the police. 
For years African Americans and Latin- 
os have been victimized by excessive 
police force. Every year several hundred 
young men die in police custody or in 
street struggles with undercover cops. 
Camcorder video has enabled commu- 
nities to document these incidents. For 
years police have video-taped demon- 
strations and community organizations. 
But as mass sales of video recorders have 
increased, harassed communities have 
taken to watching the police. 

The creative use of technology that 
Mumford dreamed of is alive in 
hundreds of small studios, in trailer 
parks, in community-controlled mobile 
TV vans and in high school rec rooms. 
It's called public access. 

— Dee Dee Halleck 

which is how Deep Dish gets to your 
home— tune in to Deep Dish T.V.— 
Fearless T.V.! 

Deep Dish TV is looking for tapes for its 
1992 series which will focus on critical and 
grassroots responses to the Quincentennial 
celebrations of Columbus' encounter with 
the Americas. We are looking for: Indigenous 
perspectives on the Quincentenary and con- 
temporary struggles for self-determination; 
protection of land and natural resources; 
official vs. unofficial histories; local and in- 
ternational perspectives on the relationship 
between North and South; strategies for 
survival; performances, teach-ins, direct c- 
tions, etc. For more information please 
contact: Deep Dish TV 
attn: Programming Director 
339 Lafayette St. 
New York, NY 10012 

,.«** S 


f»8<CL><Z^ESiE;EC> >/V05<t-C> 2tQ 



This interview with Dr. Paul Billings, a specialist in clinical genetics with a 
Ph.D. in immunology, was conducted in ]uly, 1990 at his office in the Cali- 
fomia Pacific Hospital in San Francisco by Shelley Diamond and Greg 

PB: Modern genetics is about 20 years old. We can test now for about 
500 medically related disorders that have a genetic component. We have 
mapped about 2000 human genes on specific chromosomes within each 
of our cells. We don't really know how many human genes there are, 
probably about 100,000. So we've mapped about 2%, and in a very 
short period of time. The curve is growing at an unbelievably quick 
rate. We'll probably have a very high-quality map of most human genes 
within about 5 years. 

I was a member of a group called 
"Science for the People," which had a 
sub-group, "The Genetic Screening Study 
Group." We were studying sociobiology, 
the XYY controversy, and intelligence 
testing issues. We wondered if there was 
any evidence that genetic testing was 
being used in a discriminatory fashion, 
but there wasn't. That was 1987, and I 
advertised in 1988 to see if people would 
write me about discrimination. 

SD: Could you give us some history 
of how insurance companies, govern- 
ment and employers have used genetic 
test results? 

PB: Well, each has a different type of 
history. Insurance companies historically 
factored out costs over large groups, and 
the healthy people paid for the sick people. 
That was the principle of insurance- 
spreading the risk. A variety of influ- 
ences, including better testing, certain 
laws and taxes, and competition, made it 
fashionable to begin insuring smaller and 
smaller groups, looking at that group's 
experience over a period of time in terms 
of how many medical costs they were 
incurring, and then, if it was high, rating 
them as higher risks. That's called "ex- 
perience rating," rather than "community 
rating." And that led towards medical 
assessment of people as they were coming 
up for insurance. 
At about the same time, most people in 

the United States started getting their 
insurance through their workplace. So 
these forces coalesced to make small 
businesses and individuals the object of 
medical underwriting, which is the as- 
sessment of health prior to the delivery 

If databases contain 

genetic material^ people 

could learn virtually 

everything about your 

genetic make-up. Now 

that wouldn't tell them 

much about you, but they 

may think that they 

know something about 

you, and certainly might 

use that in some way 

against you. 

of health insurance. Insurers solicited 
doctors' records and began asking people 
to undergo testing for things like high 
blood pressure and cholesterol, and 
HIV. They would also solicit genetic 
information, even a detailed family his- 
TTie insurance industry has invested in 

genetic testing laboratories and com- 
panies that assess one's genetic health. 
Insurers would like more genetic infor- 
mation about their clients, because they 
could rate people with bad genes higher, 
and they could "lower" the rates for 
people with good genes, whatever they 
might be. They have been kind of cagey 
about the whole business, but genetic 
testing suits insurers because they can 
stratify the population more. 

But there is no epidemic of genetic 
disorders. The number of genetic diseas- 
es and the number of people affected 
with genetic disease is roughly the same 
as it was a hundred years ago. What 
we've been able to do over the last 20 
years is to detect these disorders much 
earlier. In fact, we can detect them 
maybe even years before they become a 
disorder, so insurers are stratifying peo- 
ple genetically even though their actual 
genetic disease-related costs have only 
grown like other medical costs. 

SD: So everything that the insur- 
ance companies do, as far as requirii^ 
tests or getting access to the test in- 
formation, all of that is legal? 

PB: Yeah, because they make your 
ability to get insurance contingent upon 
consenting to their seeing that informa- 
tion. Employers are not covered by the 
same rules as insurers. There's virtually 
no control over what they can do in the 
pre-employment setting. 

Unions have been a strong force in 
trying to get employers to act in a 
reasonable fashion. The 1990 Americans 
with Disabilities Act says that employers 
have to offer a job to anyone who's 
qualified to take that job as long as they 
don't have a disability which will pre- 
vent them from doing the job properly. 
That could force employers not to do 
medical underwriting, which they often 
do for the insurers. 

GW: Do you think the recent deci- 
sion on Johnson Controls in the 
Supreme Court might have any bear- 
ing on this? I mean, this idea that 


f»B<C:><i:ESSEl> WOFtLO 2tSJ 

women who were supposedly more at 
risk couldn't get some jobs without 
being sterilized? 

PB: I would like people to have as 
much of their own genetic information 
as they wish, but I would like to see them 
retain complete control of it so that they 
can't be coerced into sharing it. In order 
to get jobs, in order to get certain kinds 
of entitlements, people will give up a lot. 
I would like to see that minimized. 

The Johnson Controls Case is in the 
same ballpark as what we've been 
talking about. People should make up 
their own mind if this is an appropriate 
risk assessment. Employers don't need 
this information, and shouldn't have it. 
Employers should be concerned with 
risks in their workplace — that is, risks 
that they're creating by exposing workers 
to toxins, to unsafe practices and equip- 
ment — and let the individual decide 
whether they're at high risk or low risk. 

If employers start saying "Everybody 
with this kind of history — or this kind 
of genetic test — can't work here," that 
will be discrimination. Some people in 
that group can and should be there, and 
might be the best for that particular job. 
So it should be an individual decision. 

GW: Why do we test for things that 
tend to affect blue-collar workers 
rather than management? 

PB: There's another way of looking at 
that. Companies might be interested in 




Psycholo gical Experiments on Women Prisoners 
Lexington. Kentuclw. USA. 19fl7 

Shut Domi Lgxinpon Control Unir! 


...1 HAD A H£hPACHE...^01 WfNT IKJ FOR] 


Jmt vou mn SICK lu fwz iajt five YE»R5? I 





doing genetic testing to identify those 
people who they might promote to an 
executive job, but who might cost them 
too much in health or life insurance. 
Someone told me about a vice-president 
discovered to have a genetic disorder 
which didn't actually have any impact 
on his longevity or ability to be produc- 
tive, who was denied promotion on that 
basis. But you're right — we see genetic 
testing used to promote labor-force stra- 
tification to reduce the power of blue- 
collar workers. 

SD: One problem is limiting ac- 
cess to employer databases. How do 
we get a handle on that? 

PB: Once you have a database, it's 
almost impossible to make it secure. The 
point of attack is to say: 'Why? What 
right do they have to keep that data in 
the first place?" Or from the federal 
government point of view, "What is the 
public interest in saving this data?," 
which is, according to law enforcement 
bureaucracies, detecting crime. If data- 
bases contain genetic material, people 
could learn virtually everything about 
your genetic make-up. Now that 
wouldn't tell them much about you, but 
they may think that they know some- 
thing about you, and certainly might use 
that in some way against you. 



A FEW THIM65...LIKE FOOD...m/i£HT... I :• 


SD: Could you give us some exam- 
ples of discrimination? I'm particu- 
larly interested in people who were 
discriminated against for just being at 
risk versus actually having a disease. 

PB: One is the couple who were at risk 
for having Huntington's disease. And 
they decided to forego undergoing the 
DNA test, instead deciding to adopt. 
They were very nice, made a nice 
income, a perfect adoption family. When 
the adoption people asked about family 
illnesses, they told them about the 
Huntington's. And that excluded them 
from the adoption process! 

It's classic in clinical genetics to advise 
people that adoption is a way to avoid 
transmitting a genetic trait. The wife was 
in her thirties, and statistical analysis 
indicates her risk of having the gene for 
Huntington's when she was born was 

50%. But as time goes on and she's 
unaffected, her risk goes down. If she's 
passing through her thirties without 
showing it, there's less chance it's there. 
So her risk is less than 50%. That's the 
same as people with family histories of 
diabetes or cancer, yet they don't ex- 
clude people for those. 

Then there are neuromuscular disor- 
ders, which are highly variable in the 
people who have it. Some people in the 

f»R.<I><lESiSEC* WOfftt-O ^SJ 


family might be wheelchair-bound, while 
others wouldn't even be affected, and 
you'd need a DNA test to detect it. 
There was one case in which someone 
went in with a parent who showed it. 
Specialized testing revealed that the 
child had it, too. The child applied for a 
job and was turned down because she 
admitted to a positive test for the 
disorder. But she was perfectly fine, and 
in fact, a severe case wouldn't even affect 
her ability to do the job. 

Or take the case of the salesman who 
had been driving for 20 years with a 
neuromuscular disease without an acci- 
dent, a ticket, or any change in his 
illness. This guy had the gene, and a 
mild physical manifestation, but he 
u/asn't ill. He wasn't complaining, he 
wasn't using extra medical care, he 
wasn't taking medicine for it. His car 
insurance agent found out about it 
through an application for life insurance, 
and canceled his auto insurance, so he 
couldn't make his living. The man's 
doctor sent a letter to the insurance 
agent, saying this guy is perfectly health- 
y, a perfectly good driver, but it had no 

Then there are cases in which some- 
one is identified as a carrier for a 
recessive disorder through the diagnosis 
of the full-blown condition (say, cystic 
fibrosis), in a nephew or a relative, and 
their carrier status is used as a reason not 
to insure them. 

SD: So what is someone's alterna- 
tive when they feel they've been 


corporate (cflr'porjle) ad; from Ihe french coeur. hear) ( sour 
like cur- mongrel dog, base person I porate, from the Latin, flow 
excrement (pour-rate) through the Roman aqueduct system. 
corporate: Heart of flowing shit. 


discriminated against? Is a lawsuit the 
only answer? 

PB: It depends. If it's an insurance 
issue, people who have persisted have 
sometimes gotten satisfaction from the 
appeal process. TTiey go many months 
without insurance during this process, 
but people can win. You have to be a 
very good self-advocate, speak English, 
and have enough money to persist. You 
can't be afraid to embarrass yourself at 
work, or worse, risk your job. If you're 
able to do all that you'll probably get 
satisfaction from the system. And, of 
course, there are lawyers who'd like to 
argue these issues in court. The system is 
stacked against you, and you have to 
be able to fight it, and that's hard. 

SD: Do you anticipate a precedent- 
setting case in the courts? 

PB: I don't know. I don't think there's 
any evidence that that's how things 
change in our society [laughs]. You have 
to change people's attitudes through 

I think the health insurance issue is 
clear-cut. I don't think we need to 
research the idea that people should have 
access to health care in this country, and 
they should be able to stay financially 
solvent while getting it. You may need to 
research the best way of changing this 
inequitable system into an equitable one. 
I would rather have people know that 
genetics doesn't tell you very much 
about how someone is going to use the 
medical care system, or how good an 
employee they're going to be. 

SD: Is it the job of the human geneti- 
cists to take on this kind of educational 
role? Should business be required to 
consult with human geneticists before 

they make policy? 

PB: Yes, and I've actually heard about 
a number of wonderful new programs 
where clinical geneticists, even those 
with disabilities, are conducting corpo- 
rate programs, demystifying genetic dis- 
orders as employment criteria or indi- 
cators of high insurance risk. 

That also presupposes that human 
geneticists can give a responsible account 
of their own discipline's history, both its 
applications and its limitations. Many 
genetic scientists don't know the history. 
These guys — like me — are lab rats who 
never see the light of day, and really 
don't know what the problems are. They 
just do their experiments and write their 
grants, which are hyped versions of their 
work's importance and how it's going to 
transform society. Look at the rhetoric 
around the Human Genome Project — 
"the holy grail, the essence of humanity, 
every illness is genetic." It's a skewed and 
narrow way of looking at the problems. 

We have to re-educate the human 
geneticists — or at least historically edu- 
cate the human geneticists, as well as the 
public at large. Human geneticists have 
to be in the vanguard of teaching the 
limited applicability of human genetic 
information in making social decisions. 

SD: What about eugenics? 

PB: Ideas about genetics start out 
positive and hopeful — liberation from 
the curse of one's parents, new treat- 
ments for disorders, new freedom to 
make choices. But then questions of 
control and determinism appear. What 
are we going to pass on to our children? 

The history of genetics in the U.S. is 
just full of eugenics — from forced 
sterilizations and the Immigration Acts, 
to sickle-cell screening programs, to new 
calls for population and immigration 

GW: Issues of crime and heredity? 

PB: Crime and heredity is a very good 
example of applying genetic explanations 
to social problems. If the link is accepted, 
it implies the elimination of the people 
who are genetically susceptible to one 
thing or another — and that's eugenics. 

If you look at other cultures, it's even 
more profound. I don't think that 
genetics necessarily has to be that way. It 
has to do with the way people learn 
about genetics, with psychology, with 
inherently racist societies. Popular gene- 
tic science tends to reinforce ethnic and 
racial stereotyping. My hypothesis is 
that if we could find societies which are 
relatively free from racism and sexism 


••R-OdESSEIl* WCL>fftt_!:> 2t3 

and other forms of stereotyping, they 
may be less likely to abuse and more 
likely to intelligently use genetic infor- 

GW: In Backdoor to Eugenics, Troy 
Duster compares what's seen as a legiti- 
mate genetic question in Denmark or 
Scotland — which are very racially ho- 
mogeneous — and what's seen as a legiti- 
mate question in more racially-mixed 
countries, like the U.S. 

PB: Yeah, well, I think it can run 
either way, right? I just took care of a 
Vietnamese kid who has Down's Syn- 
drome, and his family had never noticed! 
I attribute that to fairly homogeneous 
societies — it either has to be so shocking, 
so different that they just say "it's 
different" (and probably discriminate 
against it), or they assume it's part of the 
homogeneity of the group. Our society is 

economically and politically stratified. 
The genes of the lower ranks are thought 
to be less desirable than genes of the 
higher ranks. 

SD: How are people reacting to 
possible and real discrimination? Are 
people lying or refusing to be tested? 

PB: I'm to some extent pleased that 
many people who would potentially 
"benefit" from a new test are declining it. 
One of the reasons is that they have a 
sense that discrimination will follow. 
TTiey also don't want the information 
for other personal reasons; that's their 
business. Many people will decline to 
have the test for Huntington's or cystic 
fibrosis if they're given the option. 

Other people who have genetic infor- 
mation about themselves will lie about 
it. Some insurance agents will encourage 
people to lie because they know honesty 

will lead to denial of coverage. Physicians 
will obfriscate this material in medical 
records and billing so that insurance 
companies don't get it, because many 
physicians — quite correctly — want to 
protect their patients. 

SD: Would that impair later treat- 

PB: If that information weren't readily 
available and the patient were having an 
acute something-or-other, yes, that 
could be a problem. 

SD: Have you heard of people who 
are forced to stay in jobs for insur- 

PB: Well, not exactly. I've heard many 
people take it into consideration, and I'd 
encourage that. If you're considering 
undergoing genetic testing for anything, 
you should take care of any job and 
insurance issues before you do it. And 
you should be aware that insurance 
companies may not want to pay for it, or 
they'll make insurance contingent upon 
you paying for it. 

SD: What do you know about the 
bill introduced in the House of Rep- 

PB: The Genome Privacy Act protects 
one's right to find out what genetic 
information is being held by an agency, 
to rectify it, and to sue if it's being 
abused. It's an interesting starting point. 
I like the civil rights model better than 
the consumer credit model, which doesn't 
get at the issue of why companies 
should have any right to store the 
information in the first place. I was listed 
as one of the act's sponsors, but I think 
it's flawed. I hope that the discussion 
heads more towards "rights." 

GW: Do you see any roadblocks to 
a darker use of genetics — forcing 
people's decisions rather than inform- 
ing them? 

PB: There'll be a group that'll say we 

f*8«:><i:ssissi> wor-LC* 2t3 


should look at high susceptibility and 
low susceptibility individuals, and people 
who are highly susceptible and act 
irresponsibly should not have access to 
care or should pay more for it. It's like, 
"if you smoke, you can't have health 
insurance" — or if you have a "bad gene" 
and you act irresponsibly, you should be 
punished. I don't think it's right, but I 
can see that happening. 

GW: There seems to be an un- 
healthy fascination with technique, 
and Httle consideration of the im- 
pUcations. Or is that just a reflec- 
tion of what gets published? 

PB: No, I think you're quite right. I 
think genetics is a "gee whiz" kind of 
science. No one anticipated that it would 
get so detailed, sophisticated, and mirac- 
ulous so quickly. People just don't talk 
about the limitations. No one ever said 
that basic scientists could understand 
the problems of society. These are nar- 
row, focused, ambitious guys. There's no 
reason to want them to be leading our 

GW: The people who are pushing 
for a genetic explanation of complex 
behaviors — alcoholism, mental re- 
tardation, crime — are often people 
who aren't geneticists. 

PB: Yeah that's true. Troy Duster 
actually has some nice data on that. 

GW: What would you be doing if 
you had control over, say, National 
Science Foundation funding? 

PB: That's a good question. Well, I 
would apply it to the common disorders. 
That's a reasonable application of genet- 
ics, because we don't have a clue about 
the etiology of many common disorders. 
We know that environmental factors are 


involved, but I think that that should be 
equally — or more — funded, since we 
already know certain risk factors. 
I don't think it's inappropriate to 
apply genetics to any and all questions. 
At the same time you have to acknowl- 
edge the limitations of the insight that 
you're going to get. And if you find a 
genetic link to cancer, or a genetic link 

to heart disease, or even to mental 
disorders, it's only the first step in trying 
to describe a system which is extremely 
complex. Genetic information may be 
an important step, or it may he a totally 
irrelevant step. It's right to study things 
that affect a lot of people and cause a lot 
of misery. So that's what I'd do. 

GW: Our last issue looked at 
"The Good Job," and we had a lot 
of people who were leftists, or at 
least liberals, who drifted into 
jobs that had pretensions in that 
direction — the ACLU, labor un- 
ions, co-operatives, etc. Do you 
have a good job? And if so, why? 

PB: The only good part about my job 
is that I teach. Education is a very big 
part of this. I sit around with people like 
you, and do a lot of TV and other stuff, 
because I think it's a modern form of 
public education. And I do research, 
which has a "morally redeemable" side 
to it. But I work in the private medical 
world, and my salary is paid out of the 
profits of a private medical institution, so 
in that case I suppose I am a representa- 
tive of a system which is in fact disor- 
dered, and causing people problems. 

If you feel you've been genetically discriminated against, please contact: 

Dr. Paul Billings., M.D., Ph.D., Dept. of Medicine, California Pacific Medical Center 

P.O. Box 7999, San Francisco, CA 94120, or call (415) 923-3575. 


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T \\ ^^^^ Salquist is a model of the enlightened manager of the 
^■^ V new "clean" industries clustered around California's uni- 
v_versity towns. In a meeting with activists, he and his staff dress in 
jeans and sneakers. They look more like environmentalists than 
the environmentalists, who show up in suits and ties. Salquist, a 
former nuclear submiarine engineer who once ran a solar energy 
company, is president and owner of Calgene, a Davis, California- 
based biotechnology company. Avoiding the inflated claims of a 
new industrial revolution, he comments that "[o]ur influence will 
be fairly opaque to the customer. . .It's not a revolution, but an 

This slow entry into the economy may 
well be a major obstacle to mobilizing 
interest in biotechnology. Proponents 
promise the public cures for cancer and 
a solution to hazardous waste, while 
critics focus on the potential for major 
disasters. Neither has come to pass. The 
increasing use of biotech products will 
accelerate existing patterns; the develop- 
ment of herbicide tolerant plants will 
probably increase the use of dangerous 
agricultural chemicals. Biosynthetic human 
growth hormone may help people af- 
flicted with dwarfism, but the product is 
being increasingly used on children whose 
parents would like them taller, or by ath- 
letes looking for an untraceable alter- 
native to steroids. 

The University-Industrial Complex 

Most biotech firms settle near univer- 
sities because both the means of produc- 
tion and the end product (the informa- 
tion on the sequence of bases in genes) 
originates there. Grad students' training 
is publicly funded, and they work cheap. 

Significant work in university labs is 
done under contract with private inter- 
ests. Calgene was founded when a 
professor at UC Davis received a re- 
search grant from a chemical company 
which was also an investor. As tenure 
becomes harder to obtain at strapped 
public universities, students are realizing 
that biotechnology is the field to get into 
and Calgene is the place to work. 

In the race for the golden double helix, 

knowledge is a commodity, patentable 
and ownable by the giant multination- 
als. The courts recently held that UC 
had the right to license and sell the 
reproduced cells of a former patient 
without compensating him. Already 

Yet to he discovered is 
what happens when hio' 

engineered lifeforms 
reach the market and get 

dumped into the air, 
water and soil in massive 
quantities. Unlike toxics, 

some of them will he 

capahle of reproducing 

and spreading. 

breakthroughs and developments that 
might have been publicly shared in a 
collegial spirit are being disclosed to 
stockholders first, if at all. 

Yet there is still little campus debate 
about the direction of biotech research 
and ownership of the fruits of years of 
publicly subsidized brain-work. A nota- 
ble exception is Farmers for Alternative 
Agricultural Research, a fledgling coali- 
tion of farm reform groups pressuring 
UC over research priorities that favor 
pesticide companies. 

How do Critics Organize? 

Organizing around obvious disasters 
like Love Canal or Chernobyl left social 
critics of technology without clear-cut 
ways to address emerging issues and the 
public numb to subtle shifts whose 
impacts are still years away. 

Based on 50 years' experience with the 
chemical industry, our record of predict- 
ing the effects of new technologies is not 
very good. Chemical processes are so 
ingrained in our economic life that we 
no longer depend on mechanical force and 
the application of heat to produce goods. 
Many suggest that the next production 
mode will rely on biological forces. 

This shift is already under way. Cali- 
fornia is home to almost a third of the 
world's new microbiology and genetic 
industries, and most of them are still 
developing and testing — manufacturing 
is still in the future. As a result, biotech 
may be one of the first technologies we 
can examine before it takes hold in the 

We've already witnessed the mobiliza- 
tion of public opinion against Advanced 
Genetic Sciences' (AGS) proposed re- 
lease of a bacteria edited to prevent frost 
blight when sprayed on crops. The 
bacteria promised to save farmers mil- 
lions in crop losses, but its greatest 
consequence would be to allow cold- 
sensitive crops to grow in colder cli- 
mates, possibly placing untrammeled 
habitat (read "unproductive wasteland") 
under the plow. 

The Foundation on Environmental 
Trends led a lengthy battle against 
researchers' plans to test the engineered 
bug's field performance. The Foundation 
raised a variety of concerns and argued 
in court and the press for an Environ- 
mental Impact Report (EIR). Some 
scientific critics even suggested that the 
bug's genetic changes might be shared 
with wild relatives, disrupting global 
weather. Most focused on micro-impacts 
which are hard to prove or disprove. 
The press was fascinated by the conflict 
between scientists and critics, and the 
potential for extreme disaster. 

f»B«:L»<iiESSEC> w«::>R.i.i> :^q 


The initial test site was in Monterey 
County, with subsequent tests slated for 
remote Modoc County, near the Oregon 
border. Local farmers mobilized in op- 
position to the release at the original site, 
and Monterey County adopted ordi- 
nances that required a permit and a full 
EIR. The delay and public review dis- 
couraged testing, and AGS shifted to a 
more politically apathetic area in the 
agricultural San Joaquin Valley. Bay 
Area green advocates failed to develop 
the grassroots support they had around 
the coastal test site, and the company, 
with the support of UC, organized its 
own outreach. There were more delays 
as legal wrangles continued, and when 
those failed, vandals ravaged the site. 
The test was conducted anyway, the 
AGS product turned out to be worth- 
less, and global weather patterns have 
remained stable (well, it has been hot 
lately in Sacramento). [See also letter in 
PW 20 from anonymous group uiho attacked 
similar test in 1987.] 

The number of these tests is increasing 
daily. Yet to be discovered is what 
happens when bioengineered lifeforms 
reach the market and get dumped into 
the air, water and soil in massive 
quantities? Unlike toxics, some of them 
will be capable of reproducing and 

Several neighborhoods have waged 
fights against biotech facilities. In San 
Francisco, residents near the UCSF 
medical school have successfully chal- 
lenged plans to expand biotech labs 
which, according to the opposition, 
would have housed Navy bio-warfare 
research. In New York, Harlemites have 
fought Columbia University's plan to 
tear down the Avalon Ballroom (scene 
of Malcolm X's assassination) for a new 
biological research and development 

Crack For Cows 

Another major projected product of 
the biotech industry is a pharmaceutical 
drug for dairy cattle called bovine 
growth hormone (BGH — also known as 
BST). Cows produce the hormone 
themselves to regulate milk production. 
More BGH, more milk. So Dow-Elanco, 
American Cynamid, Upjohn and Mon- 
santo engineered a bacterium to create 

The problem is that there's already too 
much milk. Increased milk production 
through a costly input that demands 
additional management would drive 
smaller producers out of an already 

marginal industry, and encourage larger 
herds and concentration in ownership. 
And consumers are leery of food tamper- 

The campaign against BGH has fo- 
cused on these constituencies. Regional 
coalitions have asked major dairy proc- 
essors to pledge they won't purchase 
BGH milk. While the biosynthetic hor- 
mone is not licensed for general use, milk 
from test herds is sold in secret. In 
California, where distributors required 
dairies to certify that no milk from test 
cows was entering the food supply, milk 
was sold instead to federal food giveaway 
programs. Since 40% of all dairy cows 
eventually end up as hamburger, it is 
possible that some meat from experi- 
mental animals also ended up as 
McBGH burgers. 



We have perfected the anti-monarchical 

genetic buijet. A small pellet dissolved 

in bovine-growth-hormone-rich milk 

before bed, and that's it! 








Ask about our other products for 

Popes, Presidents, and 

Corporate CEOs! 

Graphic: C.C. 

The manufacturers of the drug have 
reportedly spent almost $250 million just 
in development. Some sources have 
estimated that annual sales could reach 
$2.5 billion. Given these stakes, the fight 
to bring the product to market will be 
fierce. The federal Food &. Drug Admini- 
stration (FDA), which favors wide use of 
the hormone, has been charged with 
covering up documented increases in 
rates of illness in BGH test animals. Op- 
ponents of BGH organized a national 
consumer boycott, complete with tele- 
vision spots (one featured a hypoder- 
mic syringe in a glass of milk). A com- 
prehensive report detailing the economic, 
animal, and human health issues was 
released by Consumers Union, and the 
FDA postponed its decision on the drug 
for another year. 

Although the product has been a 
black eye for the industry, BGH has not 
slowed another biosynthetic product 
from widespread use in the dairy indus- 
try. Chymosin, a synthetic form of 
rennet, used in cheesemaking, had a 
35% market share by mid- 1990. 

Antebellum Redux 

Despite the need to challenge this new 
industry, movement building will be 
difficult. Many effects of biotech will be 
economic, and the labor movement has, 
for the most part, lost the ability to 
organize around economic issues. The 
victims of biotech are isolated and 
frequently unaware of the sources of 
their injury. The industry is a phantom, 
still more talk than product. The few 
pharmaceutical products produced by 
bioengineering are expensive and limited 
in their use. 

The nature of the industry's intentions 
are clear. When asked about his vision 
for agriculture, Roger Salquist argues 
that saving family farms is irrational. 
"Nobody did anything to save inde- 
pendent record stores or groceries or 
service stations or all the other extinct 
vestiges of post-Industrial Revolution 
America." Despite years of rhetoric 
about preserving America's rural base, 
biotech policy ensures that smallholders 
in the US will go the way of the formerly 
self-reliant victims of Dole and United 
Fruit in the Philippines and Central 
America. The corporate biotech vision 
of enormous plantations growing pat- 
ented seeds may soon spring to life. 

— Sam Bulova 


f»R.O<::ESSEO W<I>K.t_Il> 1^3 


Generation X: tales for an 
accelerated culture 

by Douglas Coupland 

St. Martin's Press, 1991. $12.95 

with some additional comments on the 

films of Hal Hartley, and others 

As a soon-to-be post-twentynothing, I 
read Generation X with a great deal of 
interest. I'm tired of people telling me 
what I'm supposed to be, or more often 
these days, what I am not. I've lived for 
years in the taciturn shadows of the 
sixties, being a sort of Type A "slacker," 
with thinly concealed disrespect and 
distaste for the world I've inherited, 
lacking faith, hope, and yes, charity 
towards my elders, who by virtue of the 
temporal roulette, expect my obeisance. 

Age is relative. "If you remember the 
sixties, you weren't there," runs a cur- 
rent refrain. I remember them only too 
well, even if I had little to say at the 
time— who would listen? 

Suffering the terminal wanderlust of 
the first jet-set generation, with beat/ 
hippie forebears, we're always looking 
for that virgin runway to escape the 
soul-jangling chords of expatriate solips- 
ism. In moments of incendiary madness, 
I'd just as soon we burn the whole 
shooting match of this modern world 
(not you, Tom!) down to the ground, 
and start over with a charred slate. Is it 
an atavistic memory, a sympathy for the 
dinosaurs, that feeds our fascination for 
their catastrophic extinction? 

We have been an invisible generation. 
Time Magazine calls us "freshly minted 
grownups." Coming at the tail-end of 
the baby boom— sometimes we call our- 
selves the "baby doomers" — now, turn- 
ing thirty, we reveal ourselves in movies 
like Slacker, any of Atom Egoyan's films 
(Speaking Parts, Family Viewing), or Hal 
Hartley's {Trust, The Unbelievable Truth). 
Now we've found a literary voice in 
Douglas Coupland's Generation X— a 
book that says something about who we 
are. It plunges into the desert of our age, 
and comes back with a searing portrait 
of the mirror at midnight, melting in the 
nuclear shadows. 

Its author is tersely described as "from 
British Columbia, Canada." Just finding 
his book in a bookstore can be a 
challenge. It measures 8 by 9 inches, and, 
defying categorization, is as likely to be 
shelved in the aging, art or anthropology 
sections, as it is in fiction. 

Generation X concerns three twenty- 
something opt-outs who live in adjacent 
bungalows in Palm Springs, California. 
They each work "Mcjobs" in various 
service industries, having abandoned the 
"veal-fattening pens" of their home- 
towns of L.A., Portland and Toronto. 

"Where you're from feels sort of irrele- 
vant these days," muses the narrator, 
"since everyone has the same stores in 
their mini-malls." 

Claire, Dag, and Andrew instead 
choose to "live small lives on the 
periphery; we are marginalized and 
there's a great deal in which we choose 
not to participate. We wanted silence 
and we have that silence now . . . Our 
systems had stopped working, jammed 
with the odor of copy machines, white 
out, the smell of bond paper, and the 
endless stress of pointless jobs done 
grudgingly to little applause." 

On the surface, they treat each other 
antiseptically— it is, after all, a desert 
they're in. Their intimacy is a common 
exile in the "platonic shadow" in which 
they spin parables around nuclear epi- 
phanies, musical hairsplitting, telling 
each other urban folktales late into their 
TV-dead nights. 

These are the notes of a "Basement 
People" who just can't shake the sense of 
being marginalized by the Boomers who 
came before them. Their fears and 
observations are reflected in chapter 
headings: The Sun is Your Ene- 
my . . . Our Parents Had More ... I Am 
Not a Target Market . . . Dead at 30 
Buried at 70. . .New Zealand Gets 
Nuked, Too... Don't Eat Your- 
self. ..Eat Your Parents ... Purchased 
Experiences Don't Count. 

One of the pleasures of this book is the 
hyper au courant wordsmithing and 
phrasemaking the author highlights in 
the left and right columns, quels bons 
fucking mots which I use to pepper this 
review. It's a Devil's Dictionary for the 
nineties, with terms like decade blend- 
ing, bread and circuits, rebellion post- 
ponement, consensus terrorism and ter- 
minal wanderlust to explain our restless- 
ness. Some who are condemned to sweat 
out most if not all of their adult lives in 
the years after 1984, are going to suffer 
from option paralysis ("the tendency, 
when given unlimited choices, to make 
none"). They're not alone. 

The book flashes forward to the year 
2000, to a blinking high contrast spin 
through "America's Winter Garden" 
wher% a "cocaine white egret" soars over 
the carbonized dry silk of a slash-and- 
burned field. The reader is left with a 
persuasive though glib effluvium of 
numbers for endnotes, a sort of Harper's 
Index for the Vexed with citations from 
the Time article, and other reputable 
purveyors of high precision factoids. 

Close to sixty percent of the twenty- 
somethings Time talked to believe 
"There is no point in staying at a job 
unless you are completely satisfied." 
Even more assume that "Given the way 
things are, it will be much harder for 
people in my generation to live as 
comfortably as previous generations." 
Suburban angst, maybe. 

But after nearly a decade of Bratpack 
writers like Bret Easton Ellis and Tama 
Janowitz giving North American letters 
a fetid air of mediocrity, it's refreshing to 
find a young writer who does not 
substitute designer names for imagina- 

f*B<.0<l:ESSEO W<I>B<Lt> :^3 


tion. Rather than mouthing inanities 
through a crash-dive of delirium, eyes 
locked on a myopic monitor, we see 
characters many of us might recognize as 
the TV-emprismed latchkey kids of the 
suburban living room, grown up now 
and groping for ways and means out of 
this nightmare known as the New World 

Of course, we still face terra incognita 
— the X-niks are only now starting to 
define themselves, to express their post- 
modern if premillennial malaise. "The 
world is a dangerous and uncertain 
place," says the protagonist of Hal 
Hartley's short film Ambition. In Trust, 
Martin Donovan groans, "I gotta go see 
this jerk about a job." Or, in Theory of 
Achievement, Bob Gosse quips, "I'm 
bad at my job on purpose. If I was any 
better at it, I might become what I do for 
a living." 

Diagnosing ills has always been easier 
than prescribing a cure, yet to ignore 
today is to blindside tomorrow. If hind- 
sight is 20/20, the future may be catar- 
acts. Reading books like Generation X is a 
good way to go before the sky dims. 

-D.S. Black 

The City, Not Long After 

by Pat Murphy 

Bantam Spectra Books, 1990. $4.50 

This surrealist speculative fiction novel 
struck my fancy because its premise is a 
radically depopulated city of San Fran- 
cisco sometime in the not too distant 
future. The people have been killed; in 
fact, most people in the developed world 
have died from an airborne virus carried 
by Peace Monkeys imported from the 
mountains of Nepal. 

This epidemic is the ironic result of a 
worldwide campaign by peace activists to 
put an old prophecy to the test, to see if 
the monkeys could truly bring peace. 
They got more than they bargained for 
when within a few short months 
hundreds of millions perished from the 
new plague, passed from one primate to 

San Francisco's survivors are a hardy 
150 or so, mostly poets, conceptual 
artists, and peculiarly innocent people, 
along with a cast of unknown dozens of 
ghosts, spirits and the city of San 
Francisco itself. The City manages to 
direct its inhabitants where they need to 
go through its ever-shifting layout. 

This arty collection of slackers and 
survivors is menaced by the imminent 
invasion of a loony right-wing America 
First militarist who has already built a 


The electronic era tendency to 
view party politics as corny — no 
longer relevant or meaningful or 
useful to modern societal 
issues, and in many cases 

PHOBIA: The secret belief 
that technology is more of a 
menace than a boon. 


WANDERLUST: A condition 
common to people of transient 
middle-class upbringings. Unable 
to feel rooted in any one 
environment, they move 
continually in the hopes of 
finding an idealized sense of 
community in the next location. 


travel destination chosen in the 
hopes that no one else has 
chosen it. 

small empire and subjugated most of 
California's Central Valley. He is intent 
on bringing San Francisco into his fold 
of upright Americanism. The surrealists, 
iconoclasts, traders, and doodlers of SF 
embark on a house of mirrors (and 
ghosts) defense of their beloved City. 

Pat Murphy does a nice job of evoking 
an empty city, the scavenging lifestyle 
available to the few survivors, and 
weaves in various magical realist ele- 
ments as well. What I found disappoint- 
ing, in spite of my basic enjoyment of the 
book, was that once again an interesting 
premise of a radically different society is 
constrained by its arrival through un- 
precedented catastrophe. The essential 
questions of work and wealth are avoid- 
ed by having a very few people living in 
perpetuity from the rubble of the old 
world. I want to read books about a new 
world where exciting urban living is 
combined with a radically changed or- 
ganization of life. Oh well. Maybe the 
next one! 

—Chris Carlsson 


Mondo 2000 ^ Reality Hackers ^ 
High Frontiers 

P.O. Box 10171, Berkeley, CA 94709 
$24/5 issues; $5.95 single issue 

Let's get virtual, baby. Snap on your 
DataSuit; put your clips on. . .my ear- 
lobe. What, you're not in the mood for 
some teledildonics? Then let's get meta- 

physical. With Brian Eno! Timothy 
Leary! Kathy Acker! William S. Bur- 
roughs! Robert Anton Wilson! Come 
ride the electronic frontier! Gather 
round the cathode ray campfire for some 
High Definition weenies. The penumbral 
haloes you see are a harmless side effect 
of the smart drugs— breakfast of reality 

If this tachycardiac intro betrays a 
certain breathlessness, then you can 
imagine the excitement I feel with the 
arrival of each new issue of Mondo 2000, 
hotbed for these and other screaming 
memes aflame in the neuroelectric fire- 
storm of these neophilic nineties. Mondo 
is a feast of up-to-the-nanosecond intel- 
ligence — the news from the crackling syn- 
aptic bonfire of late 20th century tech- 

When I want to know more about 
"cyberpunk . . . the attitude . . . where 
to get it," I reach for Mondo. When the 
urge hits me to hook a MIDI innerface to 
the old PC, or to check out the latest in 
pornographic software ("The Carpal 
Tunnel of Love"), this is the place for all 
the down and dirty, the sacred and 
profane in this age of silicon and cellular 

What I like about Mondo is its funki- 
ness. For look and feel, Mondo (or M2, as 
it tags itself) has some of the busiest, and 
if you're into that MacClutter of graphic 
devices, some of the bitchinest bytes to 
come down the digital pike. It should 
only be a matter of time before a 
mindblowing blipvert edition of this mag 
is available, or maybe even some daring 
new optical blotter format for the real 
wireheads. As writer (and Grateful Dead 
lyricist) John Perry Barlow remarks on 
virtual reality in the summer 1990 issue 
(no. 2), "cyberspace is already crawling 
with delighted acid heads." 

Riffling through some old issues, its 
earlier incarnations, one flashes back to 
panegyrics to MDMA (Ecstasy) and 
other stylish designer drugs of the mid- 
eighties. For my taste, there have been a 
few too many cloying, credulous and 
seemingly unedited interviews with Ti- 
mothy Leary, John Lilly, Ram Dass, and 
other eminences grises of the psychedelic 
frontier. One can turn to the new issue 
of M2 (no. 4) and find . . . yet another 
cloying, sycophantic interview with Tim- 
othy Leary and William Burroughs ("A 
Couple of Bohos Shooting the Breeze"). 

There is the occasional serious, pro- 
vocative, and informational piece, how- 
ever—as in issue 3's "Civilizing the 
Electronic Frontier," which describes the 


••fftdXIlSSiSEO WOR.1_0 2tS 

assault on civil liberties now being 
mounted by the State on computer 
users (and yes, the occasional abuser). 

But for every one of these hard-hitting 
features, there are several which are 
charitably described as fluff— 
Domineditrix Queen Mu's exculpation 
of Jim Morrison comes readily to mind. 
Here she raises shield and sword to 
defend him against the depredations to 
his legend by Oliver Stone's movie The 
Doors. Although I like Baudelaire and 
Lautrfemont— both of whom Queen Mu 
brings into the discussion— and will only 
too willingly concede the Doors' singer's 
role as an orphic character, it's still hard 
not to smile at Mu's drooling decon- 
structive expos^, the tarantula venom 
irony of Jim Morrison's penile karma. 

This article might not have been so 
embarrassing if it hadn't covered seven 
pages of the new issue. Must be hard to 
edit a Domineditrix. 

That's not the only lapse. Rudy Ruck- 
er's incoherent review of The Difference 
Engine (William Gibson and Bruce Ster- 
ling's new novel), and Barbara Leary's 
star-fucking necrophiliac piece on Andy 
Warhol give M2 its soft-centeredness, or 
high squish quotient. For fringe science 
watchers, there is even an article on 
slime — an important substance for our 

If it's not the Interview Magazine, then 
perhaps Mondo is a hybrid of Whole 
Earth Review and Rolling Stone for the 
cyberscene. I remember its first issue as 
High Frontiers, when it appeared in 1984: 
a folded-over tabloid, nominally going 
for a dollar, though it was on the freebie 
tables of most stores that carried it in the 
Bay Area. That was the nice price. 

This "Space Age Newspaper of Psy- 
chedelics. Science, Human Potential &. 
Modern Art" was part of a quasi-New 
Age Utopian movement which promised 
to blaze a way for those of us afflicted by 
the "outward urge" to slip the bonds of 
gravity, whether astrally or through 

Soon, to reflect the conscious evolu- 
tion towards new outlaw technologies, 
High Frontiers became Reality Hackers, 
which later begat Mondo 2000. Along the 
way, it has remained hip and compul- 
sively readable — it's always interesting to 
check in with Brian Eno, and some 
other people like Avital Ronell (author 
of The Phone Book) who receive notice. 

Ian Shoales contributes a characteris- 
tically amusing, acerbic commentary 
"War is Hell, Peace is Heck" to the new 
issue. By way of contrast, the lead 

editorial by the aptly named R.U. Sirius 
describes how the "New World Disor- 
der... starts within yourself. . .when 
you realize that safe sex is boring sex, 
cheap thrills are fun and you're as 
atavistic as they are. . . .This ain't no 
reasoned debate. This is Jehova against 
Dionysus. Let's drink that tired old 
self-righteous motherfucker under the 
table." Again, shades of Baudelaire 
("Get Drunk!"), only that was 
then . . . this is now; I'm surprised Sirius 
doesn't urge all cybersamurai to take 
their grievances to the street, or where it 
would really hurt, the Net. 

Indeed, times like these are screwy 
enough to drive any thinking or feeling 
person to extremes. For every new 
paradigm, there ought to be a new 
panacea. But I can't help wondering if all 
the hype over virtual reality and other 
technology-based alternate universes 
that Mondo touts for their emancipatory 
potential aren't just, in the final analysis, 
a marketing ploy for the wetdream 
consumer goodies that will surely follow. 
The ads they publish do nothing to allay 
this concern— "Get High on Oxygen! 
Take a Quantum Leap into Higher 
Consciousness with Activated Oxygen 
—The Ultimate Smart Pill." 

In the case of virtual reality (VR), it 
certainly would be useful to have RISC- 
based access to computer-simulated en- 
vironments where the interface is dis- 
crete, if not transparent, and bandwidth 
(i.e. range) is constrained only by the 
imagination. Impulses in this electronic 
realm could be seamlessly melded with 
one's perceptual apparatus, opening a 
new romantic frontier — in the mold of 
William Gibson's seminal novel, hJeuro- 
mancer. VR creates an alternate reality 
that is like television, only potentially 
more rewarding as it is interactive, with 
full user immersion. The possibilities are 
immense: in issue 2 (Summer 1990), the 
laundry list of applications includes 
"working bodies for the damaged," 
"datacondoms" and "travel to alien worlds." 

On the other hand, those of us 
plugged in, in the early part of this year, 
had the grim spectacle of smartweapon 
pyrotechnics in the war with Iraq. 
Turning to the glass oracle of television, 
viewers found themselves in a virtual 
cockpit over Baghdad. Ian Shoales, in 
his sarcastic piece, talks about some 
"Lessons from the Mother of All Post- 
war Periods" — how it would have been 
cheaper to throw money at Iraq to end 
the war rather than all those expensive 
hi-tech weapons. 

Yet Mondo is so enamored of the 
gee-whizbang neatness, the goshwow 
sense of wonder inspired by such techni- 
cal "innovations" as virtual reality — the 
understandable dream of finding a uni- 
verse in a grain of silicon— that I often 
wonder if they're not showing just a little 
unseemly haste to leave this stinkin' 
cesspit of a world behind their television 
snow and mirror shades. 

-D.S. Black 



Science as Culture 

Free Association Books, 

26 FreegroveRd., 

London, N7 9RQ, England 

20 pounds sterling/4 issues; $5.95 each 

Science As Culture, formerly Radical 
Science journal, examines the role of 
science in society. In the past they have 
dealt with topics as diverse as labor 
relations ("Post-Fordism" in issue #8); 
women's issues — female infanticide in In- 
dia (pilot issue) and women as scientists 
(#4); and science fiction (#2 and #5). The 
articles are for the most part well 
grounded, only occasionally lapsing into 

A recent issue (#9) has an article that is 
particularly germane to this issue of PW: 
"The Double Helix as Icon," by Greg 
Myers. The topic is not the science of 
genetics, but rather its representation. 
The reason for wanting to analyze this 
imagery "... is not that the images carry 
cultural significances into science; histo- 
rians have often shown that science is 
already built on culturally given models. 
The problem is that they superimpose 
various significances in a way that makes 
them seem naturally related, so that we 
come to trace social values and struc- 

f»fftO<I.ESSEC> WOfftt-O 2ta 


tures to nature, rather than tracing the 
metaphors of nature to their social 

Among the meanings that he exa- 
mines are: creation-images of the origin 
of life, etc.; individual identity and 
genetic determinism — "am I just my 
genes?"; and biotechnology as a com- 
modity. He gives examples by both 
picture and description, mostly from 
magazines that cover scientific issues for 
the non-specialist. 

To better study the imagery of science 
he identifies three aspects of representa- 
tion: the icon, in which there is some 
resemblance between the object and the 
representation (the sun represented as a 
circle with rays); the index, in which the 
representation is produced indirectly by 
the thing represented (such as a sha- 
dow); and the symbol, in which the 
relation between the signifier and the 
object is strictly arbitrary (such as the 
letter "A" representing the amino acid 
Adenine). He looks at other aspects of 
imagery which affect response, such as 
gratuitous detail, which may serve to 
make an image seem more real, or allow 
it to convey other meanings (such as 
using images to confirm the complexity 
of science, etc.). The use of several 
images together serves to amplify the 
effect of presenting an indisputable reali- 
ty, and each image borrows from an 
existing cultural context which provides 
an "emotional" flavor (e.g., use of bibli- 
cal imagery— trees and snakes, for in- 
stance, or the imagery of Frankenstein). 

One section examines the "cross- 
breeding" of images pertaining to sci- 
ence. In a discussion on the astronautic 
metaphors invoked in articles and ad- 
vertisements, he makes an excellent 
point: "... all this spaceship imag- 
ery. . .makes science a matter of tech- 
nique, not a matter of changing con- 
cepts, of research styles and collabora- 
tion, or interaction between specialties. 
As often happens in popularizations, 
technology stands in for science, partly 
because technology is more photogenic." 

He also looks at the "genetics as a 
book" metaphor, which comes complete 
with the implication that we find mean- 
ing, rather than make it. He closes by 
pointing out that people do make their 
own meanings from this imagery. For 
some, the imagery that sells genetic 
material as an assembly-line product 
may be repulsive; far from convincing 
them that this is a good idea, it may 
galvanize them into action against the 
process. "[W]e have little control over 

the images of science that enter popular 
culture, but we may be able to rewrite 
the captions." 

— Primitivo Morales 

Woman Sitting At The Machine, 

by Karen Brodine 

Seattle: Red Letter Press, 1990. $8.95 

/ know that typesetters 
grow more capillaries 
in our fingertips 
from all that use. 

here's a test: cut my fingers 
and see if I bleed more. 

Woman Sitting at the Machine, Think- 
ing, is Karen Brodine's fourth and last 
book of poetry, published posthumously 
by Red Letter Press. Karen was an active 
social feminist who worked for many 
years as a typesetter. Most of the poems 
encompass her political views not only 
on larger, social issues, but attempt also 
to gain poetic insight into the "minute- 
ness" of her everyday life. Other poems 
reflect her experiences as a daughter and 
granddaughter, a lesbian, and a victim of 

The title poem (quoted above) is a 
series of work pieces which analyze the 
internal exploitation of the workplace. 
From management-labor conflicts to 
work nightmares to stream-of-conscious- 
ness raptures while daydreaming on the 
job, the poem tracks the woman's 
thoughts while performing repetitive tasks. 
Her observations are witty, a testament 
to individual involvement. 

we are their allergy, their bad dream, 
they need us too much, with their talk 

"carrying us" on the payroll, 
we carry them, loads of heavy, dull 

outmoded and dusty, 
they try to control us, building 

and taking the faces off the phones, 
they talk to us slow and loud, 

As if it were a gift. 

we say even if they stretched tape 
across our mouths 
we could still speak to one another 
with our eyebrows. 

She protests against a system that 
allows workers to be treated as commod- 

Karen Brodine 

ities, where it is somehow considered 
normal to "toss the body out on the 
sidewalk at noon and at five, then they 
spit the body out the door at sixty -five." 
Through her protests and rants, she sees 
some hope for a better way of living: 
"remember that fish/that lives so deep/ 
it has grown its own light/energy glaring 
out of the bulbs of its eyes." 

The second and third sections, "Fire- 
weed" and "Here, Take My Words," are 
snapshots and reflections of her child- 
hood, with eulogies dedicated to her 
musician mother and activist grand- 
mother, who was confined to a conva- 
lescent home during the latter part of her 
life. These sections illustrate the principles 
Karen dedicated her life work to. 

The final section, "Left Feather," deals 
with censorship on various levels: the 
silencing of her grandmother through a 
series of job discharges during the 
McCarthy years, the censoring of sex- 
uality, or the struggle to allow herself 
expression and acceptance of a life with 
cancer. These poems demonstrate her 
lyrical abilities more so than in any other 
place in the book. At times, they dive 
into the images of surrealism, yet always 
stay in the language of the everyday. 

The primary strength in these poems is 
the content. They are aggressive, but 
often fall flat on the page. At their best, 
they are political manifestos calling for 
an interaction between bodies and 
minds. "All my life," she writes, "the 
urgency to speak, the pull towards 

—Marina Lazzara 


»»r.<:>c::esssi> >/v<:i>R.t_£> 2*3 


^ I tried to stop what happened that day, but it wasn't going 
\if to be stopped. A woman died. It was reported as a car 
accident, a not terribly unusual event. But it didn't have to 
happen. On some level, the clinic escort team failed miserably. 
I was co-coordinating our efforts with a woman considered a 
warm, nurturing escort, a self-avowed Christian-for-choice. I 
didn't trust her as far as 1 could throw her (which in retro- 
spect is what 1 should've done). 

But what happened to a woman I'll 
call "Ana" occurred after she got into 
the clinic. Someone got to her boyfriend, 
perhaps between the clinic and his car 
after he dropped her off. He decided she 
didn't have any right to get the abortion. 

Either these old guys 

HAVE the right to tell 

me what Vm gonna do 

with my uterus, with the 

next one to twenty years 

of my LIFE, or else their 

campaign has as much 

moral legitimacy as a 

fucking Marlboro adl 

First he got loaded. Then he came into 
the clinic. He started yelling in the 
waiting room about how she couldn't 
kill his baby. The clinic staff ejected him, 
warning the escorts not to let him back 
in. But meanwhile he'd gotten her purse. 
He demanded to see Ana after she was 
already being prepared for surgery. If 
only we had been strong; if only I had 
gotten some of the women together and 
just taken back the purse (the men on 
the escort team that morning were all 
very uncomfortable with this idea!). 

My Christian co-coordinator instead 
chose to call in the police. It seemed 
opposed to what we stood for, but she 
insisted. Something was already terribly 
wrong, and it got worse when the cop 
hung out with the kid, just talking like 
brothers. I still thought I could save the 

In most respects the morning had 
seemed successful. We'd deployed 
enough people around the clinic that the 
Operation Rescue (OR) scouts, checking 
all the clinics open that morning, 
wouldn't be likely to advise a hit against 
ours. We'd avoided the ORs' attempts to 
bump or trip us so they could tell the 
police we were assaulting them. We'd 
brought women smoothly through a 
particularly skilled cohort of OR "side- 
walk counselors," a quartet of young 
women in their late teens and early 

These "counselors" looked. . .meek; 
they stood apart from the contingent of 
fetus-porn sign carriers yelling about 
babykilling, and from the vicious old 
men fondling their beards (tough old 
coots with military backgrounds written 
all over them). The "counselors" 
pounced like piranhas on any woman 
from fourteen to sixty that passed near 
the clinic. One of them, during a 
previous action, had looked me straight 
in the eye as I escorted a client into a 
clinic and, hearing people use the famili- 
ar chant "Pro-life, that's a lie, you don't 
care if women die," responded in an 
emphatic whisper, "That's right!" 

By the second time they messed with a 
client we were ready. We blocked their 
sign-carriers before they blocked us, and 
formed corridors to give the client and 
the escort smooth passage. We even 
dampened the "sidewalk counselors'" 
piercing cries of "Don't go in there! 
They'll hurt you and kill your baby!" by 
holding up our placards ("This Clinic Is 
Open" and "Defend Our Abortion 
Rights") and singing "Row, Row, Row 
Your Boat." 

situation. I'd get him to leave, then we 
could handle it. The cops always claimed 
they didn't want to be there anyway, 
that they had more important things to 

I told the cop that things were pretty 
much over for the morning, that we had 
everything under control — gave the 
whole rap, none of it false. But now that 
this cop had been invited in, like a 
vampire, he wasn't about to let go. He 
threatened and lez-baited me, obsessed 
with getting to talk to Ana. He pled the 
kid's case. He lied to me and to the clinic 
director in his efforts to get her to bring 
Ana out of recovery to him. 

Ana had said to me that she was never 
going to see her "boyfriend" again, and 
that she didn't even know if he was the 
sperm donor for today's problem. She 
thought he was pretty crazy. But if he 
had her purse, how was she going to call 
her brother-in-law (who, like most of her 
family, lived over an hour from San 
Francisco in a lower-income commuter 
town) to come and get her? While she 
was trying to work out getting home 
without her purse and without this 
creep, the policeman was working to 
undermine her decision, put her back 
into the intoxicated young man's custo- 
dy. Finally, he simply ordered the clinic 
to surrender the patient to him, and 
then proceeded to badger her until she 
agreed to go home with the drugged-out 
anti-abortion ex-boyfriend who'd seized 
her purse. The cop, with the tacit 
support of the Christian escort coordi- 
nator, pulled out all the emotional 
stops— He just wants another chance, he just 
wants you to know how much he loves you. 
(Subtext: he's got a right to you. ) How 
much did he love her? I guess she found 
out. I hopelessly watched as she got into 
his flashy car and drove away. 

I let a woman be murdered; I watched 
her get sucked down the drain by a 
desperately sweaty blond cop who had 
entirely too much emotional investment 
in getting her to ride with the purse- 
thief. I learned once again what a crock 

••fftCXHSSSEt* WOB<t-I> 2tSi 








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graphic: Angela Socage 

of shit being nice is, and Ana learned 
how much love and protection there was 
for her in this world. Later we read 
about a freak crash on the freeway 
heading to her small town, involving a 
rare and flashy vehicle and two Hispanic 

All in One Day: 
Mainstreaming the End of Choice 

Shortly after columnist George Will 
suggested that rather than focus the 
anti-abortion battle on electoral races 
(where it tends to be lost), enemies of 
abortion rights re-animate the doctrine 
of abortion-as-sin by "stigmatizing" the 
woman involved, examples of his strate- 
gy began popping up everywhere. Wom- 
en, already urged to be anxious about 
everything from exercise to eyebags, 
were now invited to forget 20-plus years 
of the tenuous right to make choices 
about the uses of our uteri, and instead 
wring our hands over the "moral crisis" 
(whose?) of abortion. 

It may have started with Will and his 
ilk, but our own willingness to be such 
self-doubting wimps doesn't help. I re- 
member a sensitive, oh-so-ethically- 
tortured cover piece in the Village Voice 

by a woman who had apparently had a 
few bad experiences with feminists (hey, 
who hasn't?), decrying the frequency of 
abortions. Instead of reaching the obvi- 
ous conclusion — that current contracep- 
tive technologies just aren't good 
enough — she joins the Will chorus and 
blames the women. Her delicate soul was 
tormented by wondering if women were 
seeking abortions as rites of passage? New 
Age Crap like this implies that we 
should instead be crowning our pubes- 
cent lasses with spring blossoms on 
windblown beaches while singing men- 
strual chants. It's also callous stupidity, 
losing sight of the fact that when women 
come of age, we can get pregnant, with 
or without chants, garlands, and beach 
(which, come to think of it, would be a 
lot nicer than looking at the sappy 
posters in a clinic recovery room). So we 
need the option to end unwanted preg- 
nancies, just as we need affordable 
effective prenatal care. 

If we want to do anything other than 
begin the mom life at fourteen or fifteen, 
the sane, smart, even courageous choice 
for a young woman as well as for the 
children she may one day raise, is 
abortion. The Voice writer aside, very 
few women that I know experience any 

physical or emotional malaise post-op. 
It's just like having a period, or should 
be. The influence of "stigmatization" 
erodes the self-esteem which promotes 
physical resilience: some clinic workers 
have told me they see more depression, 
discomfort, anxiety, and over-justifica- 
tion among women who were got at by 
anti-choice family members or acquaint- 
ances. Who knows? With the prolifera- 
tion of New Age Crap riding on the 
coattails of feminism and hippie- 
nostalgia, we'll probably soon be prod- 
ded to agonize over fetuses' past lives. 

My best friend, the Red Diaper Baby, 
has noted that in olden times good 
commies simply said, "Beware the mass 
media, they're a bunch of pigs," while 
today scads of would-be dissenting voices 
buttress their yen for a Front Page career 
by producing reams of analysis of the 
beast. One day of S.F. Examiner reading 
and I'm wondering how much my 
buddy's kidding when he sighs for the 
straightforward caveat of the good old 
days. First, the liberal Christopher Mat- 
thews column suggests without irony 
that the $5+ million war chest the 
Conference of Catholic Bishops is pre- 
paring for a sin-based anti-choice multi- 
media ad campaign is modest, even frugal, 


f*R.CI><Z:ESSEI> WOR.t.0 3t3 

and perhaps does a service to "us all." 
You see, it brings "the debate" out of 
"the cold, clinical, medical realm" where 
findings on brain function and viability 
just happen to consistently support call- 
ing a fetus a fetus and a baby a baby. 
Chris, Chris, I wanna cry from the heart, 
there's no "debate" here! Either these old 
guys have the right to tell me what I'm 
gonna do with my uterus, with the next 
one to twenty years of my life, or else 
their campaign has as much moral legitima- 
cy as a fucking Marlboro ad! However 
ascetic you may find a $5 million P.R. 

In my experience, tolerance of apolo- 
getic, morally sensitive attitudes about 
abortion plays into the same hands 
which the women and men who want to 
censor pornography are tickling: the 
Religious Right. 

Former car salesman Randall Terry, 
the troubled son of a violent father and a 
mother whose family has a tradition of 
feminist activism, including reproductive 
rights work, founded Operation Rescue 
in the mid-80s after an intense on-the- 
road conversion experience whose de- 
tails change depending on whose version 
you hear. OR has a slick magazine, 
state-of-the-art computerized fundrais- 
ing, savvy body-mobilizing campaigns 
through sympathetic Catholic and fun- 
damentalist churches, and tenacity. Its 
assets have been seized, its activities 
enjoined, but at this writing, it seems to 
have returned from the brink once 

Its Wichita extravaganza has given 
George Bush a chance to look moderate 
as the Justice Department abets OR's 
new strategy— taking the fight to wom- 
en's clinics in the Bible belt to avoid the 
more aware urban areas where there has 
been quick response from civil liberties, 
women's, and gay organizations (as 
well as the new network of militant 
pro-choice groups which has arisen all 
over the country, but mostly in metro- 
politan areas, in response to OR itselO. 

Operation Rescue unites groups of 
people who sincerely believe all the other 
groups are going to burn in hell, devout 
Roman Catholics, Bible-believing Bap- 
tists and Spirit-filled Pentecostals, in 
rather authoritarian public displays of 
passive aggression: mass sing-, lie-, and 
kneel-ins to shut down medical facilities 
where abortion is offered. With less 
media presence OR members mount 
more violent attacks against clinics, their 
clients and escorts (calling the latter 

"death squads" is one of their more 
absurd attempts to ape activist-speak). 
The clinic attackers I've spoken with are 
quick to point out that there has never 
been an OR member convicted of actual 
clinic arson or bombing, but member- 
ship is fluid, and their training literature 
advises outright deception (key OR lead- 
ers in the Bay Area disavow all know- 
ledge of the organization!) as well as 
vagueness about OR activities beyond 
the orchestrated media events. 

A trendy piece on contemporary Civil 
Disobedience activism, also in the Ex- 
aminer, centers on one Colonel Ron 
Maxson, painting the Nam vet in rose- 
soft hues. This, we're told, is a gentle, 
simple man, a man of conviction, fight- 
ing for what he believes despite police 
brutality and a world that won't under- 
stand. What Colonel Ron does to 
express his great soul is physically block 
women from entering medical facilities; 
this "activist in the tradition of Gandhi 
and King" is a member of OR. 

A fifteen-year-old girl-child is left 
standing in the street waiting for police 
to remove Maxson and crew. (// they do; 
without strong pressure from pro-choice 
groups, police response is typically to 
order the clinic closed. At one OR 
action, I even saw the officer in charge 
ask the OR in charge if there were any 
pro-choicers he wanted arrested, and 
proceeded to arrest them.) The Holy 
Spirit might speak in her heart, Maxson 
reasons, telling her not to go through 
with her abortion. That these hours 
might also mean hemorrhaging from 
laminaria insertion, shock, needless 
pain, infection, perhaps even returning 
home for a desperate and ignorant 
attempt to self-induce and possible 
death, doesn't bother a man with the 
guts to stand by his convictions. 

After all, OR mentor Joe Scheidler, 
author of Closed: 99 Ways to Stop 
Abortion, Chicago Pro-Life Action 
League founder, and suspected clinic 
bombing participant, declared "a war of 
fear and pain" on women seeking abor- 
tions. I've seen ORs gleefully cite the 
(fabricated) Closed passage claiming that 
infections, perforated uteri, shock, hem- 
orrhage and death rates rise by 5-12 
percent at a clinic that was targeted by 
OR. To Maxson, confrontations with 
"death squads," which have resulted in 
concussions, internal injuries, cuts, 
sprains, bruises, and at least one miscar- 
riage for clinic escorts to date, represent 
"a spiritual confrontation between good 

This is a pro-choice poem 

"Are you sure you want to do this?" 

she said doubled over crying silk 

flower pants drop to the floor 

twenty milligrams of valium I am 

down but not out I 

reach for your hand it is 

doughy, wet 

where are the big-strong-mans-hands 

when I need them 



Screaming white all around me 

I am black 

I am blind 

I can't stand this 

three page list of details to sign 



legal implications 

I don't want to know 

I cant read English anymore 

I've lost the power of language 



Your spectacles are suddenly 

madman's spectacles 

don't tell me this will hurt when 

you can't know how much 

knives in my belly 

knives I say 

are you almost through 

black nurse looks at me she thinks 

I am weak her hair is 

braided it is beautiful I think 


Heating pad on my belly 

oatmeal cookies 

chamomile tea 

sunshine outside your car 

cutting through the streets 

like a silent brown 



— Paula Orlando 

f»R.O<:iESSiEO WOR.1.0 ^3 


and evil." It's hard for me not to agree. 

Raw Good and Evil, or, 
Background on Us and Them 

It's not fashionable, probably not PC, 
and worlds away from New Ageism, but 
I do see Operation Rescue and its fellow 
travellers as my enemies, as "Them." 

It's my experience as an escort ccxir- 
dinator that has inspired this rant. 
There's a clinic in an old building, on an 
incredibly chilly corner of San Francisco, 
redolent of eucalyptus, where voodoo 
Priestess, underground railroad station- 
mistress. Madam, and probably herb- 
wise woman abortionist Mammy Pleas- 
ant had her establishment. Here she 
planted the fragrant messy trees with 
her own hands. Today it's the site of a 
low-cost clinic. This privately-owned 
facility is OR's most-targeted site in San 
Francisco, possibly because of proximity 

to OR-sympathetic churches like St. 
Dominic's and St. Mary's (aka St. Dom- 
ino's and St. Maytag's), serving a 
cross-section of Bay Area women, the 
majority being younger women of color. 

Somehow my partner and I managed 
to get up early enough every Saturday 
morning for almost a year — until our 
own demanding daughter arrived one 
November dawn — to work with the Bay 
Area's direct action, pro-choice coalition 
defending the clinic. We escorted clients 
past "pro-lifers" who shoved, shouted, 
and waved huge color blow-ups of dead 
newborns purported to be aborted fetus- 
es in the clients' faces. They tried to 
photograph clients' license plates and 
faces. They used the heavy plywood 
backing their fetal porn to bash pro- 
choicers, and the substantial size and 
weight of their bodies to threaten. They 
cunningly used the police to present 
their actions as simple, First-Amend- 

ment rights-like picketing. The surreality 
was perhaps enhanced by the colors and 
shadows of pre-sunrise, but it was con- 
firmed by the fact that all this went on 
with almost no mention in the news. 
The biggest attacks would get at best a 
fact-garbled paragraph or two buried 
deep in one of the papers. 

It never ceased feeling strange to go 
about my weekend after clinic mornings. 
In the normal world, traffic whooshed 
by the corner, at most honking an 
encouraging honk at the sight of the 
pro-choice placards, and most men 
weren't poised to hit or trip me; most 
cops and old ladies weren't threatening 
me, and most people either didn't know 
or didn't care that women's basic pri- 
vacy, basic dignity, basic rights to choose 
and receive medical care, were being 
routinely shit on. 

—Angela Bocage 

graphic: Angela Bocage 


»»B<Cl><Z.SSSSO WC:>8<1-I> :5t€J 


fM I always worked as a temp, usually doing light industrial work, 
^fj but it wasn't until I moved to San Francisco that I got a job in 
.a law firm. I had no relevant experience or interest in law; my last 
job before moving here was cleaning up rat feces in a Lipton ware- 
house. I got my first job interview through a "clerical" help wanted 
ad. When I showed up for my interview, I was an hour late, I had 
holes in my shoes, and I flunked the office competency test. Much 
to my surprise, I was working right away at one of the biggest law 
firms in California. Later I realized that the only worthwhile advice 
rd been given about job interviews — lie through your teeth — had 
paid off: I told them I was "thinking about" law school. Truth was, 
I was thinking about the least painful way to make a buck, and 
working in a posh office seemed better than crawling around with 
a Dust Buster in a damp gloomy warehouse looking for piles of rat 

Having stood for_ hours at photo- 
copiers, my eyes nuked by the rolling 
strobe light, I've had plenty of time to 
contemplate my naivete. I always get stuck 
where no one else will work, so I either 
fry in direct sunlight behind a plate glass 
window or freeze in a room with out-of- 
control air-conditioning. I once worked 
in an office that every day at 1 1:30 filled 
with a mysterious noxious-smelling gas 
from a vent; despite my numerous com- 
plaints, nobody ever responded. 

So instead of screwing caps on deo- 
dorant cans one after another, I'm 
turning pages of paper. At least I have 
some energy left at the end of the day to 
pursue other things. A short stint as a 
furniture mover cured me of any fond 
illusions about manual labor (something 
I often hear among male office workers). 
As a temp, there's always the hope that 
you might land an easy job where you 
can get away with a lot of fucking off; 
I've had a few. 

For the last four years, off and on, I've 
temped in about twenty big law firms in 
the San Francisco financial district. 
Assignments have varied in length of 
time from nine months to nine minutes, 
but the introduction is always the same: 
you are under suspicion, a likely pick- 
pocket or information thief. 

You forfeit your rights when you start 

work as a temp in a law firm. You're 
asked to sign a statement that looks like 
a confession, swearing you will divulge 
absolutely nothing about the case you're 
working on to any person for any 
reason. According to the warning, if you 

At my last job, I was 
getting paid $10 an hour. 

The temp agency was 

hilling the law firm $20 

an hour. The law firm, 

in turn, was hilling their 

client $40 an hour. Other 

than what I earned hourly, 

1 got zilch. 

so much as mention the case to anybody, 
the full weight of the law will descend 
upon you. "You might be able to plead 
spousal immunity," flecked one supervi- 
sor after threatening us with merciless 
fines and jail time. 

Law firms "hire" temps, when need 
arises, to do what they haven't got 
machines to do yet, or what they can't 

get their other employees to do: the most 
monotonous, labor-intensive tasks in- 
volved in labeling, indexing, storing and 
retrieving vast quantities of documents. 

Whole weeks of my life have been 
consumed by "bates stamping," a task in 
which a small numbered sticker is trans- 
ferred by hand from a computer- 
generated sheet onto another piece of 
paper, thus making it a "document." 
Repeated thousands of times eight hours 
a day, five days a week, this would give 
anybody repetitive stress injury as well as 
brain damage. I recently did this seven 
days a week, twelve hours a day, while a 
berserk legal assistant badgered me to 
"Go faster! Go faster!" so that I wouldn't 
"cost the client (Cetus Corporation, a 
biotech giant) so much money." 

A common task I perform is called 
"coding." That means reading each 
document (usually something like an 
invoice) for information (date, names, 
subject) and entering it onto a form. It's 
then sent to a word processor, who puts 
it into a tidy data base which the lawyers 
can access with the stroke of a finger. 

The emphasis on secrecy is absurd. I'm 
kept in the dark beyond what's necessa- 
ry for the job; I have no idea to what 
ultimate purpose my labor contributes 
except the meaningless perpetuation of 

Occasionally while coding^ I'll see an 
internal memo which reveals the prepu- 
bescent character of your typical lawyer 
or executive, giving me a bitter laugh. I 
remember one top honcho drawing 
analogies between the services his com- 
pany provides and the superhuman 
qualities of his favorite toy. Action Man, 
which he proceeded to describe in 
admiring detail, as advertised on one of 
his favorite Saturday morning cartoons. 

My experience at one law firm (appro- 
priately named "Cooley"), coding on a 
Genentech case, was not an easy job. We 
were segregated from the main office in a 
gloomy warehouse down the block, over 
a hundred of us, working at crowded 
tables in two six-hour shifts, six days a 
week. It was explained to us that six 

f»B<OdESSHI> W0fftt_0 :a€i 


game, my fictitious labor time contrib- bother them is that I found the loop- loopholes, 
utes to enriching the parasites who suck holes in the rules governing their office, 
me dry day after day. What would Drinking a beer in the park, I toasted the 

—Mickey D. 

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